THE AFFECTIVE CORRELATES OF
A GOOD MENTORING RELATIONSHIP
MARK FRANKLIN BRECHTEL
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNWERSITY OF FLORIDA
This dissertation is dedicated to Hallie Ward.
I would like to express my appreciation to the people in my life that are most
responsible for the good things that I am and do (and none of the not-so-good). First, my
mother, who (with a little help) started it all and is thus responsible for it all. Second, my
wife, Brenda, who has carried far more than her fair share in the past dozen years and
who would like to stop now, please. Third, my three daughters (in order of how much
work they did on this particular project), Christen, Christy, and Lisa — they are the reason
much of anything is worthwhile.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 INTRODUCTION 1
Defining Mentoring 5
Brief History of Mentoring 6
Importance of Mentoring 8
Present Study 10
2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE 11
Construction of the Mentoring Relationship 14
Functions of the Mentoring Relationship 20
Career and Psychosocial Functions 21
Additional Functions 24
Phases of the Mentoring Relationship 25
Phillips' Five-Phase Model 27
Missirian's Three-Phase Model 28
Kram's Four-Phase Model 29
Empirical Validity of the Phase Models 30
Outcomes of the Mentoring Relationship 33
Correlation of Functions to Outcomes 34
Self-Efficacy, Productivity, and Success in Graduate School 36
Job Satisfaction, Promotion, and Income 37
Impact of Protege Characteristics 39
Obstacles to the Mentoring Relationship 41
Negative Behaviors 42
Structural, Department Specific, and Relational Obstacles 42
Risks to Mentors 44
Other Factors That Affect the Mentoring Relationship 45
Gender Factors 45
Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, and Other Cultural Factors 50
Ethical Concerns in the Mentoring Relationship 52
Introduction to the Method 55
Value of Qualitative Research 55
Grounded Theory Methodology 58
3 METHOD 65
The Researcher 66
Data Acquisition 69
Data Analysis 71
4 RESULTS 76
Feeling Respected 78
Respect of Persons 79
Respect of a Person's Right of Self-Determination 81
Feeling Valued by or Important to the Mentor 83
Time and Effort 86
Feeling Safe 88
Not Experiencing Rejection 89
Receiving Affirmation and Encouragement 92
Feelings of Belonging and Community 95
Feelings of Increasing Competence 100
Clarifying Expectations 101
Following an Appropriate Developmental Course 102
Increasing Autonomy 103
5 DISCUSSION 105
A INFORMED CONSENT 118
B MENTOR INTERVIEW SAMPLE 121
C SATISFIED PROTEGE (SP3) INTERVIEW SAMPLE 133
D DISSATISFIED PROTEGE (DPI) INTERVIEW SAMPLE 145
E EXAMPLE OF OPEN CODING 157
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 172
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
THE AFFECTIVE CORRELATES OF A GOOD MENTORING RELATIONSHIP
Mark Franklin Brechtel
Chair: Franz R. Epting, Ph.D.
Major Department: Department of Psychology
This project investigated the affective components that help define a good
mentoring relationship. This project was exploratory, not confirmatory; thus, no
hypotheses were constructed. While previous research has focused on various
components of mentoring, such as functions, phases, establishment, and structures, these
factors were not evaluated, as the focus of the project was on the quality of the
relationship. Results of this project, however, are consistent with existing research into
Fourteen participants were interviewed (four award-winning mentors, five
satisfied proteges, and four dissatisfied proteges) regarding their experiences as mentors
and proteges. Participants were asked to provide their thoughts and perceptions about
what things were important in a good mentoring relationship and what might be missing
in a bad relationship. Results were analyzed using grounded theory methodology, which
is a qualitative method of research and analysis. Analyses indicated that positive affect
was the central factor that differentiated good mentoring relationships from bad
mentoring relationships. Positive affect, as a core category, subsumed five second-level
categories: (a) feeling respected, (b) feelings of being valued, (c) feeling safe, (d) feelings
of belonging, and (e) feelings of making progress. Each of these categories subsumed a
number of other themes. Results across all participants were remarkably consistent,
lending support to the importance of the interpersonal quality of the mentor-protege
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.
This sentiment, in varying forms and words, has historically been proffered by
many when asked to account for their successes in work or in life. Indeed, it is asserted
that Sir Isaac Newton, who wrote these words in a letter to his colleague Robert Hooke,
was himself paraphrasing an idea expressed by Bernard of Chartes in the year 1 130
(Herbert, 2003). The insight that we are able to accomplish as much as we do only
because we build upon the works of those who have gone before us is both perceptive
and judicious, rendering due credit to those upon whose labors we build our own edifices.
It is a humbling insight. No matter our view of our own talents and efforts, we are not
alone basking in the spotlight of our accomplishments. We are not solely to credit for our
discoveries and constructions. Further, we have had an advantage that our precursors did
not have: We have access to their work, their wisdom, the edifices that they built upon
the shoulders of those who went before — and, in some cases, we have access to them.
This last element — that we often have the advantage of the presence of the
persons who have gone before — provides the direction for this research. The purpose of
this dissertation is to explore the relationship between mentors and their proteges and to
ask what factors are important for the relationship to be characterized as good .
The presence of these persons allows us to learn from them directly: to see them
working in the lab, to watch them negotiate a contract with a client in the office, to hear
them present their findings first hand at conferences, and to talk to them about our ideas
and our goals. More importantly, their presence may also allow us to develop personal
relationships with them. Whether in business, a profession, or in academia, the
opportunity to enter into a personal relationship with someone who is more advanced,
more knowledgeable, more expert, or of higher status and power can be a boon to the
personal and professional development of the novice.
The significance of these relationships has been heard in the words of many: the
businessman who spoke with enthusiasm about the female senior executive who showed
him the ropes (Hogan, as cited in Murray, 1991), the Nobel prize winner who described
the sponsor who saw the potential in him that he never saw in himself (Zuckerman,
1977), the spiritual teacher who eloquently expressed his love for the elder who guided
him through crises of faith (Lewis, 1955), the child who eulogized a parent's importance
to his peace and place in the world, and the artist who waxed poetic about the one who
saw and believed in the talent and passion that others discounted (McMullen, as cited in
Murray, 1991). These few examples are noted among an imagined infinitude of people
who have recognized the critical contributions of some significant figure to their
development, to their success, and to their lives.
The recognition of the value of these significant figures, however, is definitional
of graduate education (Kelly & Schweitzer, 1999). Where else are the shoulders of those
who have gone before so intentionally made available for those who would follow?
Where more than in the graduate academy is the mentoring and advising of students and
proteges more central to the success of the endeavor? Although the goal of all education
is the transmission of knowledge, graduate education uniquely assigns the task of
preparing the next generation of scholars and researchers to those who themselves
developed and use the knowledge. "Generations of experienced scholars have known and
acted upon the knowledge that the intellectual development of their graduate students is
most effectively guided in one-to-one relationships" (Boyer Commission, 1998, p. I). The
intellectual, professional, social, and political development of individual graduate
students is the raison d'etre of the graduate mentor — the sine qua non of a doctoral
Or is it? According to many sources (e.g., Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Lovitts,
2001; Tinto, 1987), the number of students who drop out of doctoral programs in the
United States has held steady at approximately 50% since the 1960s. Further, while the
specific attrition rates for women and minorities are not known, Lovitts reported it to be
considerably higher (see also National Science Foundation, 1997). It is also interesting to
note that "in many doctoral programs, roughly half of the students are mentored; in
others, the rate is much lower" (Johnson and Huwe, 2003, p. 4). Perhaps the development
of graduate students is not the central concern of graduate schools. Perhaps experienced
scholars have not known — or not acted upon the knowledge — that students' development
is best facilitated in one-on-one relationships.
A variety of reasons may be called up to explain these alarming statistics, and
researchers have not been unaware of the problem (Bean & Eaton, 2000; Bowen &
Rudenstine, 1992; Braxton, 2000; Tinto, 1987, 2000). Some researchers have focused on
the contribution of the individual student's personality and other characteristics to
retention. For example, Tinto (1987) discussed the relations between personal
dispositions such as intention and commitment and retention, Bean and Eaton (2000)
presented a model that focuses on the interactions between characteristics of the students
and the institutional environment in which they must function after arrival, and Green and
Bauer (1995) found that certain characteristics of students at entry predicted a significant
portion of the variance in outcomes.
Other researchers have explored what happens to students after they arrive.
Lovitts (2001) explored a number of reasons why graduate students do not complete their
programs and concluded that "it is not the background characteristics students bring to
the university that affects their persistence outcomes; it is what happens to them after
they arrive" (p. 2). Lovitts reported that a key factor in a students' success is their
satisfaction with their advisors/mentors, which predicted not only completion of the
doctorate, but also a wide range of other variables. Her discussion of the relative impact
of the student's advisor is of particular interest here. In summarizing, she wrote,
In particular, the students felt that their experiences would have been better if they
had had more interaction with faculty and/or their advisor and if the faculty or
their advisor had been more open, more supporting; given them a little more
personal attention; been more sensitive to their interests and career goals; and
provided them with appropriate professional socialization experiences, (p. 184)
Clearly, factors related to student success, satisfaction, and retention need further
explication. Nevertheless, and in spite of the distressing losses of doctoral students,
numerous researchers, theorists, and administrators have explicitly recognized the
importance of mentoring in graduate education. The Strategic Planning Committee of a
top- 10 southeastern university concluded, "no function in the university should receive
more careful attention and support than the processes by which potential graduate
students are recruited, admitted, mentored, and placed" (University of Florida, 1997a, p.
21). Cameron and Blackburn (1981) discussed the positive correlations between
professional productivity and mentoring (broadly defined). The Council of Graduate
Schools (1990) specifically mentioned mentoring when noting that a university has an
obligation to provide support services to make academic progress possible. Commenting
on mentoring in the context of adult male development, Levinson (1978) added, "Given
the value that mentoring has for the mentor, the recipient, and society at large, it is tragic
that so little of it actually occurs" (p. 254).
Although mentoring is a term that is frequently and widely used, it remains
resistant to clear, concise definition (Gibb, 1999). Many researchers and authors have
defined the term in the context of their work, providing additional descriptors and
examples that serve to reveal the insufficiency of the operationalization due to the
complexity and nuances of the relationship. For example, Johnson (2002) explicitly noted
that authors have had difficulty clarifying what is meant by mentoring, and then provided
three paragraphs describing his conceptions and use of the term. The present author is, of
course, not exempt from this difficulty.
A significant factor in defining the term is that mentoring is not a simple
construct. It is not a single role, a single task, nor a single concept. Rather, the mentoring
construct describes a juxtaposition of numerous roles, activities, purposes, and meanings.
The uniqueness and power of mentoring could not, in any case, be encompassed by a
bare description of functions and outcomes. As the present study is intended to
demonstrate, fulfilled functions and positive outcomes do not define the essence of
mentoring. Indeed, positive outcomes can be acquired without a mentor. Mentoring is
something more — something qualitative, phenomenal, subjective — and as such resists
attempts to define it in any categorical way.
Brief History of Mentoring
The term mentor has its origins in Greek mythology. In Homer's Odyssey,
Mentor was a close friend and wise counselor of Odysseus. Odysseus, who became a
hero after his victory at Troy, was unable to return home after the battle, as he was
hindered by the goddess, Calypso, who wanted to marry him. Eventually, the other gods
took pity on him and sent him homeward. However, Poseidon (whom Odysseus had
offended by blinding his son, Cyclopes Polyphemus) again hindered his progress and
prevented him from reaching home.
Wisely, before Odysseus had left his home in Ithaca for the battle, he placed
Mentor (his friend and advisor) in charge of his estate, his servants, and his young son,
Telemakhos. When Telemakhos was older, he thought about his missing father. At the
prompting of the goddess Athena, Telemakhos decided to seek out his father and bring
him home again. Athena would often appear to Telemakhos in the guise of Mentor, his
guardian and surrogate father, to provide advice, guidance, support, and encouragement.
Athena also appeared to Odysseus and Telemakhos in various other guises. In each case
Athena/Mentor, using her superior (divine) knowledge and power, was able to assist them
in their travels and travails because she saw their needs and intervened with the powers
(i.e., the other gods) on their behalf.
Odysseus, in appointing Mentor, was (in part) conforming to a customary practice
in ancient Greece, which was to find an older and wiser teacher to be a role model for
young men so that they could learn from and emulate their families' cultural values and
customs (e.g., Plato and Socrates, Alexander the Great and Aristotle; Murray, 1991). In
that both Mentor himself and Athena in the guise of Mentor exemplified the
characteristics of advisor, guide, counselor, intervener, and teacher, these older and wiser
role models became known as "mentors," and the term mentor became associated with
These same ideas regarding the transmission of knowledge and customs can also
be seen in the development of guilds during the Middle Ages. The various professions
(e.g., goldsmith, lawyer, merchant) developed an apprenticeship model in which young
boys were apprenticed to a master (i.e., someone recognized as expert in the given trade).
The boys spent years with their masters, learning their trades and eventually becoming
masters themselves by producing a masterpiece .
The master-apprenticeship model was largely replaced by an employer/employee
model, but informal mentoring continued to play a central role in history. For example,
McMullen (as cited by Murray, 1991) quoted artist Mary Cassatt when she learned of
Edgar Degas' s interest in becoming her personal mentor:
I accepted with joy. Now I could work with absolute independence without
considering the opinion of a jury. I had already recognized who were my true
masters. I admired Manet, Courbet, and Degas. I took leave of conventional art. I
began to live. (p. 8)
The effects of having a mentor whom the protege admires and respects are evident and
continue to be play a central role in the value of mentoring (e.g., Kram, 1985; Levinson,
1978; Lovitts, 2001; O'Neil & Wrightsman, 2001).
In the last few decades, mentoring has received increasing attention in both
business and academia (Hollingsworth & Fassinger, 2002; Murray, 1991; Sands, Parson,
& Duane, 1991). Theories have been constructed, models have been developed, and
research has been conducted. The potential value to the protege, the mentor, the
institution or business, and society in general has driven an increased focus on how to
establish mentoring programs, structure mentoring relationships, and garner the hoped-
for benefits. Yet, a significant obstacle persists in the lack of a clear definition of
mentoring. Abstract knowledge of the concept remains insufficient for the task, as does
the bare description of functions and tasks.
Importance of Mentoring
At a purely practical level, teachers and mentors have always served an
acknowledged function as imparters of knowledge and exemplars of the professional role.
Knowledge, however, has been expanding at an accelerated rate in recent decades. The
increasing breadth and sheer quantity of information drives escalating demands to
specialize, and the rising number of highly trained and educated people creates growing
competition for limited business and academic positions. Technology is also more diverse
and complex, and the skills necessary to master it are correspondingly more intricate or
even esoteric. Consequently, the transmission of vital knowledge and skills required for
business or academic survival must be both efficient and effective. This does not imply
that mentoring is a new concept or that the efficient transmission of knowledge and
expertise is a 21st century imperative. Nevertheless, the levels of current demands have
grown such that, without the direct involvement of mentors, the task of survival — much
less success — may be nearly insurmountable.
As previously noted, however, the subjective experiences of the people in a
mentoring relationship are central, not only to the perceived quality of the relationship,
but also to the success of the relationship tasks (Bair, 1999; Lovitts, 2001). In addition to
noting the importance of mentoring in a professional context, Levinson (1978) discussed
the importance of a mentor to the psychological and emotional development of young
men. He stated,
A good mentor is an admixture of a good father and a good friend. ... A "good
enough" mentor is a transitional figure who invites and welcomes a young man
into the adult world. He serves as a guide, teacher, and sponsor. He represents
skill, knowledge, virtue, accomplishment — the superior qualities a young man
hopes someday to acquire. He gives his blessing to the novice and his Dream.
And yet, with all this superiority, he conveys the promise that in time they will be
peers. The protege has the hope that soon he will be able to join or even surpass
his mentor in the work that they both value, (pp. 333-334)
Although transmission of knowledge and technical expertise, dissemination of
cultural sophistication, enlarged networks, and other concrete benefits accrue to those
who are mentored, they are not perhaps the most important benefits. Neither are measures
of these benefits likely to capture the essence of the mentoring relationship. The present
study, therefore, does not focus directly on the practical aspects of mentoring, but rather
indirectly on the developmental, subjective, and phenomenological experiences of
mentors and proteges.
The present study focuses on the subjective experience of participants in
mentoring relationships in order to develop an understanding of what qualitative factors
contribute to the characterization of a mentoring relationship as good . What does it mean
to each person in the dyad that mentoring "works"? Is essence, what elements comprise a
good mentoring relationship? As in a marriage, something occurs in a positive mentoring
relationship that is qualitatively different from a negative or less successful one. These
features are of primary interest in the present study and provide reasons for why
psychology may be uniquely suited to explore them.
This study is further undertaken in the "context of discovery," not in the "context
of verification" (Giorgi, 1990, 1992). Although the subjective perceptions and
experiences of the protege have been noted as a predictor of positive outcomes (e.g.,
Lovitts, 2001), little direct research has been done to date on this aspect of the
relationship. Given the data indicating the relatively high attrition rates in doctoral
education, the importance of mentoring to positive outcomes in doctoral education, and
the relatively high rate of dissatisfaction among graduate students in regard to the
mentoring they received, additional research on the subjective in the mentoring
relationship is essential.
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
This chapter provides an overview of the theoretical and empirical literature on
mentoring. As previously noted, the topic of mentoring has garnered increasing attention
during the last few decades. In a brief search of this body of literature, Fogg (2002) found
a significant increase in the number of articles written about mentoring, ranging from 4
papers written from 1960 to 1964 to 721 articles written from 1995 to 1999. Similar
results were obtained by this author in a search of the Educational Resources Information
Center (ERIC) database. Focusing on mentor in a keyword search of the literature
returned only one article published between 1960 and 1965. A subsequent search
returned 893 references published between 1996 and 2002.
Other resources also reveal increased interest in the topic of mentors. An internet
search using mentoring (instead of mentor in order to eliminate cities and other unrelated
references) yielded 1,520,000 hits (Google, 2003). A random search of university
websites revealed that mentoring is also a significant interest of educational
administrators. Murray (1991) commented that some reference to mentoring could be
found in "almost every publication aimed at managers, administrators, educators, human
resource professionals. . ." (p. xiii), and Clutterbuck (as cited in Brophy & Epting, 1996)
asserted that up to one-third of major companies in Britain have experimented with
formal mentoring schemes. Other such examples abound.
This surfeit of material, however, belies the relative tenuousness of the findings in
many areas of the mentoring literature (Gelso & Schlosser, 2001; Gibb, 1999; Jacobi,
1991). Although many researchers have invested significant effort into exploring the
relationship, their findings tend to be fragmented, and the essential characteristics of the
mentor-protege relationship continue to be elusive as researchers obtain inconsistent
results (Chao, 1997). For example, the findings on the effects on personal development
and outcomes in cross-gendered mentor-protege dyads are ambiguous; some authors have
found that women may have a more difficult time finding mentors or benefiting from
being mentored by men, whereas other researchers conclude that there are no differences
in outcomes or quality and effectiveness of the relationship in regard to gender issues.
Similar problems beleaguer other areas of mentorship inquiry, such as the research into
mentor-protege dyads comprised of persons from different ethnic backgrounds.
These apparent contradictions in the literature should not be taken to mean there
is no concordance between researchers or theorists regarding several important aspects of
the mentoring relationship. Some areas of study reveal significant agreement, and some
empirically well-supported models have become nearly ubiquitous in their longevity,
centrality, and explanatory power. For example, one area of significant agreement among
researchers regards the different functions that inhere in the relationship. Generally
speaking, most authors agree that the mentoring functions construed as meeting the
primary needs of the proteges fall into the two major categories first clearly described in
Kathy Kram's (1985) seminal work on mentoring; career functions and psychosocial
As implied by the increasing numbers of researchers, theoreticians,
administrators, and business managers interested in clarifying the character and structure
of the mentoring relationships — often with the explicit goal of developing effective and
efficient mentoring programs in business and academia — mentoring continues to be an
important topic as well as an elusive construct. That mentoring is effective seems to be
taken for granted; what its effects are, how these effects are achieved, and who benefits
from the relationship are still being clarified. Discussing the problem of definition in the
context of methodology in mentoring research, Wrightsman (1981) noted that
there is a false sense of consensus, because everyone "knows" what mentoring is.
But closer examination indicates wide variation in operational definitions, leading
to conclusions that are limited to the use of particular procedures. . . . The result is
that the concept is devalued, because everyone is using it loosely, without
precision. . . . (pp. 3-4)
Researchers have identified several factors that result in confusion and overlap
between projects and conceptualizations (e.g., Chao & Gardner, 1992; Jacobi, 1991;
Wrightsman, 1981), including inconsistency in definitions, a lack of consensus regarding
structural characteristics of the mentoring relationship, and the diversity of contexts in
which mentoring is of importance. In considering these factors for the purposes of the
present study, the research in the following categories will be reviewed: (a) construction
of the mentoring relationship, (b) functions of the mentoring relationship, (c) phases of
the mentoring relationship, (d) outcomes of the mentoring relationship, (e) obstacles to
the mentoring relationship, (f) gender, ethnicity, and other cultural factors, and (g) ethical
concerns in the mentoring relationship.
Construction of the Mentoring Relationship
Given the potential and anticipated benefits and costs of mentoring to a business
or educational institution (not to mention benefits and costs for proteges and mentors
themselves), anyone wishing to develop a mentoring program needs accurate information
as to how to initiate and structure the relationship within the relevant context. Many
organizations and institutions have attempted to implement mentoring programs with
which to garner these benefits (Gibb, 1999; Ragins & Cotton, 1999; Scandura, 1998).
Typically, these efforts entail the formalization of those factors and processes construed
by the program designers to be fundamental to successful mentoring in informal contexts
(Chao et al., 1992; Noe, 1988). One of the major demarcations of mentoring and
mentoring research is thus between formal and informal mentoring paradigms.
The primary distinction between formal and informal mentoring relationships is in
the method by which the relationship is initiated. In an informal mentoring relationship,
the protege and the mentor initiate a relationship based on common interests, usually with
the protege seeking out the mentor. Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, and
Davidson (1986) found that more than 80% of surveyed proteges sought out their
mentors on the basis of similar interests. An informal mentoring relationship is not
managed, structured, or established by an external organization. This relationship is
described as spontaneous, natural, or voluntary (Johnson, 2002; Pollock, 1995; Scandura,
Conversely, in a formal mentoring relationship, the business or institution has
taken an active interest in the development of the protege, usually with specific tasks or
goals in mind (Murray, 1991). According to Gibb (1999), these goals often include better
induction and socialization into the field, professional development, improved
performance, and development of potential. The organization develops a formal system
in which the company assesses its personnel and then determines who will be a mentor
and who will be mentored. In a formal mentoring relationship, the roles are more clearly
defined and the goals are more explicitly articulated than in an informal relationship, and
specific methods of intervention are often prescribed for the mentor.
A number of other factors in both the initiation and dynamics of formal and
informal mentoring relationships may influence the character and outcomes of these
relationships. Five issues identified in this body of literature will be presented here. First,
although the mentor in a formally structured mentoring situation may be construed as
suitable for a given protege by the mentoring coordinator, the protege may have a
different opinion (as may the mentor). This may render the relationship not only
ineffective, but also possibly detrimental (Murray, 1991). For example, the protege may
have psychological or career needs that the mentor cannot meet or is not skilled enough
to recognize. Second, a protege may not benefit as much from a formal mentoring
relationship if he or she believes that the mentor is investing time and effort only in
response to a management directive or because of a commitment to the organization,
rather than because of an interest in the protege or the protege's work and development
(Ragins & Cotton, 1999). Third, formal mentoring schemes are often focused on short-
term needs and goals and may not provide enough time for mentors and proteges to reap
the benefits of the functions. Kram (1985) and Chao (1997) noted that some functions
(especially career functions) take time to come to fruition and that short-term
relationships with mentors may not be sufficient for these to germinate. Fourth, informal
mentors may be more concerned with the long-term needs and outcomes of their proteges
than their formal counterparts, and may, indeed, protect their proteges at a significant cost
to the organization (Ragins & Cotton, 1999). Informal mentors may be more likely to
identify personally with their proteges and, likewise, the protege with the mentor. Since
mentors and proteges in informal relationships choose each other, their personal
investment in the well being of the other may be greater than that in an assigned (formal)
relationship (Johnson, 2000; Zuckerman, 1977). Finally, Ragins and Cotton (1999)
argued that since formal mentors are more visible in an organization than informal
mentors are, they might be more concerned about avoiding the appearance of favoritism
towards their proteges. Contrariwise, informal mentors are expected to show favoritism,
to sponsor their proteges, and to buffer them from departmental politics.
Insofar as the informal mentoring relationship is prototypical and, therefore,
presumed to be effective and efficient, the formalization of the relationship has received
the most attention by researchers. Gibb (1999) noted that "while formal mentoring
programs are now very popular, there is not much critical analysis of the reality of their
relative successes and failures. . . " (p. 1057). Some researchers, however, have examined
the effectiveness of attempts to replicate the benefits of informal relationships in the
creation of formal mentoring programs.
Chao et al. (1992) explored differences in the perceived support functions
provided by mentors in formal and informal mentoring relationships. Support functions
were categorized as psychosocial functions or career functions as defined by Kram
(1985). Psychosocial functions are defined as those that influenced the protege's
competence, identity, and effectiveness in a professional role, whereas career functions
are defined as those that enhanced career advancement. Other outcomes, such as salary
and job satisfaction, were also assessed. In a survey of 576 university graduates (212
informally mentored, 53 formally mentored, and 284 non-mentored), proteges who had
been informally mentored reported receiving significantly greater career-related support
from their mentors than did formally mentored respondents. Interestingly, although
informally mentored proteges' scores were slightly higher than formally mentored
proteges in the psychosocial functions as well, the differences were not statistically
significant (thus, the researchers' hypothesis that informal mentoring relationships would
provide a greater number of the psychosocial functions described by Kram was not
supported). Additionally, both informally and formally mentored proteges scored higher
than non-mentored students did, with informally mentored proteges scoring higher on all
measures and formally mentored proteges scoring higher on only 3 of 12 measures.
Fagenson-Eland, Marks, and Amendola (1997) conducted a similar study of 16
informally mentored and 30 formally mentored proteges and obtained different results.
Those participants who were informally mentored reported greater psychosocial support
than did those who were formally mentored, yet both groups reported similar levels of
Ragins and Cotton (1999) noted the methodological difficulties (primarily in
instrumentation used) of earlier studies and sought to clarify the discrepancies in the
previous research. These researchers developed an instrument that allowed for separate
analysis of Kram's (1985) nine individual functions (five career and four psychosocial)
and two additional functions, rather than the superordinate categories of psychosocial and
career functions. They also assessed selected outcomes related to formally and informally
mentored proteges and non-mentored persons.
Ragins and Cotton (1999) surveyed a sample of 614 engineers, social workers,
and journalists (257 men, 352 women, 5 who did not report gender), 510 who had been
informally mentored, and 104 who had been formally mentored. These investigators
found that informally mentored proteges reported significantly more career function
support and more support in four of the six psychosocial domains measured than did
proteges in the formally mentored group. Informally mentored proteges also reported
greater satisfaction with their mentors and significantly greater job compensation than did
those in formal mentoring relationships. Controlling for other factors, post hoc tests with
non-mentored respondents revealed that proteges who had been informally mentored
reported significantly greater job compensation than employees who had not been
mentored, whereas no significant differences were reported in compensation between
formally mentored and non-mentored employees. Finally, informally mentored
employees received significantly more promotions than did both formally mentored and
non-mentored individuals, whereas no significant differences were reported between
formally mentored and non-mentored employees in this regard.
The findings of this research (Ragins & Cotton, 1999) support the assertion that
informal mentoring is significantly more beneficial than either formal mentoring or no
mentoring. Additionally, they provide some support for the position that formal
mentoring schemes are more beneficial than no mentoring at all, and that formal
mentoring can provide some of the functions believed to be beneficial in informal
mentoring relationships. Ragins and Cotton suggested that the more closely a formal
mentoring scheme approximates informal mentoring, the more likely that it will provide
the benefits obtained in informal mentoring. They also suggested that formal mentoring
be offered as an adjunct to informal mentoring, or perhaps as a preliminary to an informal
relationship, stating that "proteges with formal mentors should be encouraged to seek
informal mentors while in the last stage of their formal mentoring relationship" (p. 546).
Clark, Harden, and Johnson (2000), taking the other side, asserted more strongly
that "the unique quality of the mentor relationship and the long-term nature of
relationship formation appear incongruent with third-party assignment" (p. 264). Some
researchers (e.g., Clark et al.; Cronan-Hillix et al., 1986; Johnson, 2002; Johnson &
Huwe, 2003) have also suggested that externally or structurally imposing the relationship
precludes the inscrutable "magic" underlying the affiliation and may render the
mentoring relationship merely utilitarian, lacking in passion and emotional investment.
These researchers do not, however, equate informal with unplanned . Johnson and his
colleagues (Johnson, 2002; Johnson & Huwe, 2003) explored ways to establish
individual and organizational conditions that would likely facilitate the initiation and
quality of what they refer to as intentional mentoring . These include such activities as
preparing mentors and students for their roles, and establishing a departmental culture
that recognizes and supports the value of the mentoring process (Cohen, Morgan, DiLillo,
& Flores, 2003; Gerholm, 1990; Lovitts, 2001). Johnson argued especially that the
protege — but also the mentor— must be intentional and proactive in seeking out those
with whom they would like to work and those who possess the qualities and resources to
meet one's needs (see also Kram, 1985).
As with many aspects of this body of literature, the results need further
clarification. A clear limitation, however, is that formal mentoring, at least at its present
stage of development, should not be construed as a sufficient substitute for informal
mentoring relationships. On the other hand, while few authors would be willing to assert
that people can be mentors or learn from mentors merely because they are mandated to
by upper management, some will argue that if the conditions are established that facilitate
the development of mentoring relationships, then the teaching, learning, and allied tasks
and goals are more likely to be accomplished (Kram, 1985; Johnson, 2002; Murray 1991;
Ragins & Cotton, 1999).
Functions of the Mentoring Relationship
Levinson (1978) asserted that the central function of a mentoring relationship is
the development of the self of the protege. In describing his research on adult male
development, Levinson stated, "The mentor relationship is one of the most complex, and
developmentally important, a man can have in early adulthood. ... No word currently in
use is adequate to convey the nature of the relationship we have in mind here" (Levinson,
1978, p. 97). Although a mentor has a number of functions (e.g., sponsoring, guiding,
teaching), Levinson asserted that the mentor's primary role is that of a transitional figure
between parent and peer — neither one nor the other, but someone who can respond
appropriately to the developmental needs of the protege. Thus, according to Levinson,
not only is the relationship more complex than has been suggested by other researchers
(e.g., Murray, 1985), but it also ultimately exists for the developmental benefit of the
protege, whether in the business context or in the educational context.
Kram (1985) defined functions as "those aspects of a relationship that enhance
both individuals' growth and advancement" (p. 22). One notable feature of Kram's
conceptualization is the delineation of both psychosocial functions as well as career
functions. Levinson' s (1978) work was in the context of adult development more
generally and focused on the psychosocial development of the person. While Kram
agreed that the mentoring relationship is a developmental one in which both parties are
meeting each other's developmentally appropriate needs, she discovered that important
career functions are also being carried out in the relationship. A second important aspect
of Kram's model is that it takes into account the benefits that accrue to the mentor, as
well as to the protege and the business or institution. Following this lead, researchers
have investigated the benefits that accrue to the mentors as well (e.g., Ragins &
Scandura, 1999; Wright & Wright, 1987).
Career and Psychosocial Functions
As noted previously, there is substantial agreement among authors regarding the
basic functions of the mentoring relationship; however, this was not always the case. In
her seminal research on mentoring, Kram (1985) evaluated the previous scattered
research and noted meaningful consistencies in the data. She subsequently engaged in a
research project in order to clarify the mentoring relationship, and developed a model that
elaborates both the phases in the mentoring relationship as well as the mentoring
functions. Her model has provided the foundation and impetus for a great deal of research
Kram's (1985) mentoring functions were derived from a content analysis of
interviews with 1 8 mentor-protege dyads in a corporate setting. She identified two broad
categories of functions: career functions and psychosocial functions. She defined career
functions as those functions that contribute to the professional development of the
protege and advancement in the organization. They include sponsorship (the mentor
actively advocates for or promotes their protege in the field), exposure-and-visibility (the
mentor provides or creates opportunities for the protege to demonstrate his or her
competence in front of key figures in the organization), coaching (the mentor enhances
the protege's knowledge and understanding about how to navigate effectively the culture
and politics in the organization or field), protection (the mentor shields the protege from
potentially damaging errors, interactions, or situations), and challenging assignments (the
mentor provides meaningful opportunities for the protege to develop skills and
competencies, and to obtain successes in the professional role). The ability to provide
career functions depends on the mentor's experience, rank, and status or influence. If the
mentor does not excel on these factors, then his or her ability to effectively provide the
career functions is impaired.
Contrariwise, psychosocial functions are based on the interpersonal relationship
between the mentor and the protege and are possible only in the context of mutual trust
and increasing intimacy. Kram (1985) defined these functions as "those aspects of a
relationship that enhance an individual's sense of competence, identity, and effectiveness
in the professional role" (p. 32). These functions include acceptance-and-confirmation
(both individual's derive a positive sense of self, personally and professionally, from the
positive regard of the other), counseling (the ability to explore personal concerns that
may interfere with the individual's professional development or functioning), friendship
(positive social interactions that make the relationship enjoyable), and role modeling (the
presentation of positive attitudes, values, and behaviors by the mentor that the protege
identifies with and internalizes, and that pertain to all areas of the relationship ranging
from modeling skills to enculturation in the organization or department).
Although Kram's (1985) model is significant in the literature (Chao, 1997; Gilbert
& Rossman, 1992; Johnson, 2002; Ragins & Cotton, 1999), it is not the only model
available, nor are her nine functions the only ones noted. For example, Scandura (1992)
developed a model that consists of the following three categories: vocational, social
support, and role modeling. The vocational category correlates with Kram's career
functions, whereas the social support and role modeling categories together are similar to
Kram's psychosocial functions. Subsequent factor analyses of data by Noe (1998) and
Schockett & Haring-Hidore (1985), however, confirmed a two-factor structure: (a) career
(Noe, 1988) or vocational (Schockett & Haring-Hidore, 1985) functions, and (b)
psychosocial functions. Olian, Carroll, Giannantonia, and Feren (as cited in Jacobi, 1991)
conclude that proteges "see two primary dimensions to the benefits obtained from the
relationship: job and career benefits through information and external brokering provided
by the mentor, and psychological benefits from the emotional support and friendship
obtained within the relationship" (p. 19).
Researchers have proposed a number of additional functions. Jacobi (1991), in his
review of eight theorists, referred to 15 important functions (including Kram's) that have
been suggested, adding (for example) advice, clarification, socialization, and training.
Cameron and Blackburn (1981) added that mentors are often expected to provide
financial support, job placement support, publication support, research collaboration, and
more. More informally, this researcher's 30-minute perusal of approximately 20 of
journal articles revealed 35 distinct terms describing the functions or roles typically
ascribed to the mentor in the mentoring relationship. Pollock (1995) identified 144 terms
referring to mentors' behavior in her research. One wonders if true mentors are human (if
they exist at all) given the plethora of inspiring roles they must fulfill.
It is also important to note, then, that not all mentors are expected to fulfill all
roles or functions. Levinson (1978) wrote,
Mentoring is defined not in terms of the formal roles but in terms of the character
of the relationship and the functions that it serves. ... A student may receive very
little mentoring from his teacher/advisor, and very important mentoring from an
older friend or relative. We have to examine a relationship closely to discover the
amount and kind of mentoring it provides, (p. 98).
The needs of the protege are often diverse, and many of them are unique to the
individual. Likewise, the capacities of mentors vary from mentor to mentor. Proteges and
mentors seek each other based largely on common interests, as well as on whether the
other has the skills and resources to meet the individual protege's or mentor's particular
set of needs (Kram, 1985; Levinson, 1978; Lovitts, 2001; Swerdlik & Bardon, 1988;
Zuckerman, 1977). The large numbers of roles and functions proposed reflects this
diversity and complexity.
A comment needs to be made on the concept of mentoring functions that is
relevant to this project. Although in significant agreement regarding the general functions
that a mentor fulfills and the factors used to describe them, researchers have been
essentially silent on just what a function accomplishes. They have derived lists of
functions and behaviors, but have not clarified why, for example, a good mentor's
teaching is different from that of any other teacher. Or again, to say that a mentor
"provides support" is to say what? To isolate 144 terms regarding mentor behaviors or
functions does not adequately clarify what makes mentoring unique, special, or worthy of
interest in itself. The current project was undertaken with this lack of clear distinction in
Phases of the Mentoring Relationship
To claim that relationships change is to state the obvious, and the mentoring
relationship is no exception to this phenomenon. In the context of his work on adult male
development, Levinson (1978) noted the changes over time in the relationship between a
young man and his mentor:
In the usual course, a young man initially experiences himself as a novice or
apprentice to a more advanced, expert, and authoritative adult. As the relationship
evolves, he gains a fuller sense of his own authority and his capability for
autonomous, responsible action. The balance of giving/receiving becomes more
equal. The younger man increasingly has the experience of "I am" as an adult, and
their relationship becomes more mutual. This shift serves a crucial developmental
function for the young man: it is part of the process by which he transcends the
father-son, man-boy division of his childhood. Although he is officially defined as
an adult at 18 or 21, and desperately wants to be one, it takes many years to
overcome the sense of being a son or a boy in relation to "real" adults, (pp. 98-99)
In the above quote, Levinson (1978) was referring to the psychological
development and transitions of the male adolescent from early to middle adulthood with
the help of a mentor. Substituting the terms "young woman," "employee," or "graduate
student" in place of "young man" does not alter the insight. In a relationship with a
teacher, advisor, sponsor (i.e., a mentor), the protege will progress from not only being a
novice, but also from feeling like a novice. A corollary to this psychological development
is an increased capacity to apprehend and benefit from increasingly important, complex,
and subtle aspects of the task at hand, whether in life, work, or education.
Researchers and theorists are not known for their propensity to pass up the
opportunity to reduce complex phenomena to a set of superordinate constructs: Erikson's
(1980) psychosocial stages, Kohlberg's (1963) stages of moral development, Piaget's
stages of cognitive development (Wadsworth, 1989), Helm's (1995) racial identity
statuses are examples. Similarly, mentoring, like these other important relationships, has
a developmental course that researchers and theorists have characterized by phases. The
three predominant models that have received attention in the literature have been
proposed by Phillips (1982), Missirian (1982), and Kram (1983, 1985). As discussed by
Pollock (1995), isolating phases in relationships requires both descriptions of the features
of interest as well as the ability to place these features in a temporal frame to determine if
patterns that might represent stages or phases emerge. All three models meet these
Philips' Five Phase Model
In developing her model, Phillips (1982) interviewed 50 successful women
protegees, many of whom had also been mentors. Phillips identified the following five
phases that comprise the course of a mentoring relationship: (a) initiation, (b) mutual
admiration, (c) development, (d) disillusionment, and (e) parting and transformation.
Initiation refers to the time at the very onset of the relationship in which the
mentor and protege are just meeting and agreeing to work together. Mutual admiration ,
also referred to as the "sparkle" phase (Missirian, 1982), refers to the fantasies that each
party has regarding the other in terms of his or her talents and potential. Development is a
longer, two-part phase. Much of the work early in this stage is one-way (i.e., from the
mentor to the protege) as the mentor structures and "kick-starts" the relationship, building
the protege's confidence and professional competence. Later parts of this stage are more
reciprocal, with the protege beginning to engage with the mentor (Phillips, 1982).
Disillusionment is a phase in which the polish is off the mentor, and the protege
begins to become more autonomous and independent in his or her functioning. Although
the mentor continues to meet the protege's needs, the urgency and level of doing so
decreases, and the protege begins to separate from the mentor. The final stage of parting
and transformation is characterized by a decrease in interactions between the mentor and
protege. The relationship is transformed from a mentor-protege relationship to a senior-
junior colleague or peer relationship (Phillips, 1982). In developing one of the first
models (her work was based on her original 1977 dissertation project), Phillips' model
established a framework that subsequent research has tended to support.
Missirian's Three-Phase Model
Missirian (1982) developed another model of the stages of the mentoring
relationship based on interviews of 10 female corporate executives. Missirian identified
the following three phases in the course of the mentoring relationship: (a) initiation,
(b) development, and (c) termination. In this model, initiation is characterized by high
expectations on the mentor's part as he or she recognizes the protege's talents and
potential. The mentor provides significant challenges and opportunities as if testing the
protege, even while providing the support, respect, and encouragement necessary for the
protege to succeed.
The development phase, also referred to as "total commitment," is one in which
the mentor provides a full range of training, support, modeling, challenge, responsibility,
coaching, and other functions. The protege is learning the tricks of the trade and being
socialized into the organization, acquiring the inside knowledge and skills necessary to
continue to move up the ladder in skill, position, and status. The protege is likewise
totally committed to the task and to the mentor, and both are becoming fully invested in
their career development and professional growth. Mentor demands are seen as
opportunities, and challenges are overcome. Later in this stage, the protege begins to
function more independently and creatively (Missirian, 1982).
During the termination phase that naturally follows the development phase, the
mentor begins to recommend the protege for promotions, associates more as a peer
(though yet senior), and begins to separate and let go the mentor-protege relationship.
The protege becomes more fully aware of his or her own strengths and skills, as well as
the limitations of the mentor, and also begins to look towards the next step in career or
professional development (Missirian, 1982).
Kram's Four-Phase Model
Kram (1983, 1985) noted that both of these models (Phillips, 1982; Missirian,
1982), although empirically grounded in interviews, are limited in that they were derived
from retrospective accounts, taken largely from the perspective of the proteges (Phillips)
or the mentors (Missirian) only, and were based on interviews with female managers
only. She also noted that although these studies were valuable, they provided no direction
in isolating factors that would cause the relationship to transition from one phase to the
next (Kram, 1983). To address these difficulties, Kram interviewed 18 pairs of older and
younger managers (both men and women) who were currently in a mentoring
relationship. Furthermore, these relationships were at different active stages, obviating
the need for retrospective accounting.
Kram (1983, 1985) identified the following four phases in the course of the
mentoring relationship: (a) initiation, (b) cultivation, (c) separation, and (d) redefinition.
Initiation is defined as a period of time (usually 6 months to 1 year) in which the
relationship in initiated and progresses from a mere interaction to an important
relationship between the two parties. This occurs when hopes for the relationship become
concrete expectations within the relationship between the mentor and protege. Cultivation
(2 to 5 years) is a period in which the maximum range of career and psychosocial
functions are provided. Both the mentor and the protege continue to benefit from the
alliance, and emotional bonds increase, as do opportunities for meaningful interactions.
The third phase, separation (6 months to 2 years), represents significant emotional
and structural changes in the relationship that occur when the protege wants to become
more autonomous and seeks less guidance from the mentor. Redefinition , the final stage
of the mentoring relationship, occurs for an indefinite time following the separation phase
and is characterized by a complete termination of the relationship or a reconstitution of it
in a new form — often as a peer (Kram, 1983, 1985).
Empirical Validity of the Phase Models
Although these characterizations of the phases of mentoring are well supported by
the work of the given authors, and are widely referred to in the literature, very little
subsequent research has been conducted to determine their empirical validity. Only two
articles (Chao, 1997; Pollock, 1995) were found that specifically examined the proposed
phases of the mentoring relationship. In an attempt to assess the validity of the three
above mentioned relationship phase models of mentoring, Pollock surveyed 138 proteges
and 218 non-mentored individuals from a diverse population of middle and upper-level
managers in a broad range of industries. Pollock asked respondents to reply to a list of
behaviors derived from the literature on mentor behaviors, indicating whether, when, and
how often they recollect the behavior occurring on the part of their mentors. These
behaviors were to be ascribed to one of three time frames: early, middle, or late parts of
the mentoring relationship. These behaviors were then matched to the phase models
(Kram, 1983, 1985; Missirian, 1982; Phillips, 1982) to determine which model fit the
data most adequately.
In general, Pollock (1995) found that all of the selected mentor functions were
provided at all times during the mentoring relationship. While there was some indication
that psychosocial functions received more endorsement both early and late in the
relationship and that all functions were more frequently experienced in the middle than at
the beginning of the relationship, there were no statistically significant differences in any
stage between functions received. The implication is that there are, in fact, no phases in
which different functions are emphasized or predominant, as was conceptualized by the
three models (Kram, 1983, 1985; Missirian, 1982; Phillips, 1982).
The value of Pollock's (1995) study is questionable, however, due to some
methodological concerns. First, the data were survey-based and retrospective, rather than
interviews and current, which introduces questions as to the reliability and validity of the
data. A second critical problem is that Pollock evaluated all three of the phase models and
concluded that they could all be accurately condensed to a three-phase model,
distinguished by presence, type, and frequency of the mentoring behaviors. This became
the model that Pollock used in her research. As a result of this reduction, Pollock's
instructions to the respondents required them to situate the recollected behaviors in one of
the three predetermined time frames (i.e., early, middle, late) of the mentoring
relationship. While it may allow for phases to emerge — assuming there are differences in
the frequency or occurrence of the available mentor behaviors — this procedure forces a
three-phase paradigm, thus defeating the possibility of finding or confirming a four- or
five-stage model (e.g., Kram, 1983; Phillips, 1982). Given these methodological
concerns, it is questionable whether the results of this study can be meaningfully
interpreted as appropriate evaluations these three models as intended.
The second project assessing mentoring phases was carried out by Chao (1997),
who evaluated only Kram's (1983) model. Chao used descriptions derived from Kram's
model to query 192 proteges about their current phase of mentoring relationships. This
investigator then obtained data regarding mentor psychosocial and career functions (also
derived from Kram, 1983, 1985), as well as other factors such as job satisfaction and
income (these other data will be discussed in subsequent sections of this review). Chao
found that proteges in the initiation phase reported the lowest levels of mentoring
functions (both career and psychosocial) than in any other phase. No other statistically
significant differences were found between mentoring phases and mentoring functions.
Although predictions were supported regarding the initiation phase as a time in which the
relationship is still being established, no other support for phases in the mentoring
relationship was found (using mentoring functions as a dependent variable).
Chao's (1997) findings were consistent with those of Pollock (setting aside for the
moment questions regarding Pollock's methodology), and bring into question the validity
of the phase models as they are presently construed (Kram, 1983; Missirian, 1982;
Phillips, 1982). Concerns thus arise regarding other areas of the literature on mentoring
subsequent to these ambiguities. For example, Johnson and Huwe (2003) asserted that
Kram's model has been empirically validated, citing the Pollock (1995) and Chao (1999)
research, and devote a chapter to this model. Additionally, Johnson and Huwe provide no
justification for transferring the phase structure to the graduate school context, which
arguably has meaningful differences from the business context in which it was derived.
Categorical reductions such as provided by these phase models may provide
access to complex phenomena, facilitate understanding and explanation, and provide a
common lexicon that facilitates discussion. It is important, however, that researchers and
theorists do not fall into the error of reifying the categories and limiting their research to
confirmatory paradigms. As is evidenced by the foregoing, that phases can be delineated
and operationalized does not necessarily indicate that there are invariably objective
differences between the phases in terms of functions. Kram's well-constructed and
empirically grounded four-phase model has provided 20 years of theoretical shorthand
and intuitive clarity, but has yet to find definitive empirical support. Fortunately, as noted
by Chao (1997), "the maximum level of functions provided to the protege is more
important than temporal fluctuations of these functions as the mentorship evolves" (p. 26).
Outcomes of the Mentoring Relationship
Outcomes are, in a word, the reason for mentoring. The benefits that accrue to the
mentor or the protege (or the institution, or society) are what drive the interest in
understanding mentoring and trying to implement mentoring programs. For example,
Zuckerman (1977) reported some fascinating statistics: 48 of the 92 Nobel Laureates in
the United States prior to 1972 had Nobel Laureate mentors. Ten laureates in the United
States have mentored 30 Nobel winners. Forty-one percent of all Nobel winners of all
nationalities from 1901 to 1972 had at least one laureate mentor. Yet, while it almost
invariably assumed that the mentoring relationship leads to positive outcomes, it is
helpful and instructive to validate these assumptions with research. Clear empirical
support should help those involved in mentoring or in designing and implementing
mentoring programs determine which functions and activities would garner the best
Although there is a significant body of literature on the outcomes of mentoring,
outcomes have typically been associated with independent or predictor variables such as
whether or not a person was mentored at all, or whether the protege was satisfied with the
mentoring received, as opposed to specific mentoring functions. In one sense, the relative
lack of literature exploring the relationship between specific mentoring functions and
concrete outcomes is consistent with the thoughts of some of the more prominent
theorists (e.g., Kram, 1985; Levinson, 1978). Relationships are complex and multiply
determined, and people, heedless of statistical averages, continue to be unique and
idiosyncratic. Kram indicated that mentoring is a developmental relationship and that the
tendency to want to view it as an easily created and maintained panacea is simplistic and
inaccurate. She asserts that more attention needs to be given to the quality of the
relationship, as well as to the characteristics and needs of the individual proteges and
mentors. Levinson similarly noted that it is not the functions of the relationship that are
critical; rather, it is the quality of the relationship and how well it fulfills the needs of the
Correlation of Functions to Outcomes
Nonetheless, that the relationship between the many functions proposed as
definitional of mentoring and specific, concrete outcomes should be empirically explored
seems straightforward. Unfortunately, the literature does not reflect such an exploration.
Only one article was found that explored the relationship between specific functions
hypothesized to be important and the outcomes that may reasonably be associated with
those functions. Cameron and Blackburn's (1981) study of sponsorship explored specific
mentoring functions associated with concrete outcomes. In 250 surveys and 25 interviews
of active doctoral-level faculty in sociology, psychology, and English departments at nine
universities, these investigators asked whether sponsorship (as defined by such functions
as financial support, publication support, assistance on first job placement, and
collaboration on research projects received while a graduate student) was associated with
later rate of publication, grants received, rate of collaboration, and significant
involvement in professional associations. Findings provided some support for
associations between the assistance received as a graduate student in these areas and the
Although the findings of Cameron and Blackburn's (1981) study provided
important (though limited) empirical support for the value of certain specific functions in
the long-terms outcomes for doctoral students, there are two difficulties. First, while this
project explored a function-outcome relationship, the function (sponsorship) was itself
broken down into a number of smaller functions. This approach dilutes the clarity of the
findings, which is a difficulty reported by the authors when they noted that the
independent predicative power of the variables (functions) was reduced when multiple
regressions analyses were carried out. Second, there is no mention in the article if the
relationships were (or were construed as) mentoring relationships (as opposed to research
assistantships or something else), and thus the applicability to mentoring is at best
Self-Efficacy, Productivity, and Success in Graduate School
With the aforementioned limitations regarding specificity in the function-outcome
research in mind, the research exploring outcomes in relation to mentoring is, in general,
predominantly supportive. Hollingsworth and Fassinger (2002) explored the relationship
between mentoring and students' research self-efficacy and research productivity among
3rd- and 4th- year doctoral students in psychology. Using a questionnaire based on
Kram's (1985) career and psychosocial functions, Hollingsworth and Fassinger found
that both research self-efficacy and research productivity of doctoral students increased
as a function of the mentoring they received.
A further example of increased productivity was provided by a study of 1 74
mentored and 54 non-mentored female graduate students conducted by LeCluyse,
Tollefson, and Borgers (1985), who found that mentored students engaged in
significantly more professional activities than did non-mentored students. Professional
activities were defined as publishing an article or chapter, authoring a grant, presenting a
paper, conducting a workshop, conducting research, joining a professional organization,
attending a national conference, or working as a graduate assistant.
Interviewing and surveying administrators, department chairs, faculty, and
students across the country, Lovitts (2001) explored the importance of the advisor-student
relationship in graduate education as regards completion of the doctoral program. This
researcher defined an advisor as "the person most responsible for guiding you through
your graduate work" (p. 165), a definition not dissimilar to many provided by mentoring
researchers. Although not focusing on researcher mentoring, per se, Lovitts uncovered a
number of factors related to a student's decision to complete graduate school in the
context of her work on graduate student attrition. Some of the most significant factors
were similar or identical to those identified as functions within the mentoring literature.
For example, mentor/advisor functions such as integration/socialization into the
professional community, academic interactions, collaboration in research projects, job
search assistance, role modeling, and many others were correlated with a student's
decision to complete his or her doctoral education, which was Lovitts' primary dependent
(criterion) variable. Lovitts also explored outcome variables related to students' activities
while still in the academy (e.g., participation in professional and departmental activities),
again noting the positive correlations between these activities and students' satisfaction
with their advisors.
Job Satisfaction, Promotion, and Income Level
The benefits of mentoring in academia extend beyond the academic setting. Chao
(1997) explored the differences in outcomes between 151 mentored and 93 non-mentored
employed graduates of a college of engineering. The criterion variables were job
satisfaction, career outcomes, organizational socialization (the extent to which proteges
believed they had been well socialized into their professional roles), and income. Results
showed that proteges garnered significant outcome benefits as compared to their non-
mentored peers. These findings were also supported in a similar study by Dreher and Ash
(1990). They surveyed 440 graduates of two business schools and found significant
positive correlations between the quantity of mentoring received and rates of promotion,
income levels, and satisfaction with pay and benefits.
In another study, Chao et al. (1992) surveyed 576 alumni from two academic
institutions and found similar outcomes related to job satisfaction, organizational
socialization, and salary among 265 mentored proteges and 284 non-mentored persons.
On all outcome measures, mentored individuals reported significantly better outcomes
than did non-mentored individuals. Ragins and Cotton (1999) also examined differences
in outcomes as a function of whether or not an individual received mentoring. Their
survey of 1258 employees in engineering, social work, and journalism (614 mentored in
the work place and 548 without mentoring experience at work) revealed that mentored
individuals received greater compensation and more promotions than did non-mentored
Building on the theme of better outcomes for proteges, Fagenson (1988) explored
employees' perceptions of the amount of power they have in an organization as a
function of whether they were mentored. A survey of 246 individuals working for a large
company in the health care industry revealed that those with mentors perceived
themselves as having more access to important people, more influence over
organizational policy, and a higher level of resource access in the organization than did
those without mentors. This effect, though different in absolute terms, was consistent
across levels in the organization and across gender. That is, those with mentors reported
higher perceptions of power in the organization than those without mentors regardless of
gender or level. Although Fagenson noted that no effort was made to determine if this
perceived power was also actual, she held that the benefits could be subsumed under
Kram's (1985) proposed career functions.
Impact of Protege Characteristics
Lest one think that only good things can be said about mentoring, however, there
is a qualifier worth noting. Research suggests that the characteristics of proteges before
they enter into a mentoring relationship may account for some outcomes that have been
attributed to mentoring and, indeed, facilitate entering into such a relationship in the first
place. A number of authors have noted the possibility that the student's characteristics
may be a more powerful predictor of satisfaction or outcomes than what actually occurs
within the relationship (Jacobi, 1991; Johnson & Huwe, 2003; Zuckerman, 1977).
However, other investigators (e.g., Lovitts, 2001) are adamant in their belief that "it is not
the background characteristics of students. . . it's what happens to them after they arrive"
(p. 2) that determines many of the outcomes of interest. If personality characteristics are
indeed a critical factor in determining who receives mentoring, however, then much of
the mentoring outcome literature is brought into question, as few researchers have
attempted to control for protege characteristics in their study designs.
Turban and Dougherty (1994) examined the potential impact of protege
characteristics on mentoring receptivity and career outcomes. In their survey of 147
graduates from a midwestern university, these researchers discovered that certain
personality characteristics (locus of control, self-monitoring, emotional stability)
predicted whether or not the student would initiate a mentoring relationship with a faculty
member. Subsequent analyses supported additional hypotheses that initiating a mentoring
relationship resulted in receiving more mentoring, and that receiving more mentoring was
related to both career attainment and perceived career success. Turban and Dougherty
thus concluded that personality characteristics indirectly influence career outcomes by
modulating mentoring received.
In a similar vein, Green and Bauer (1995) found no differences in outcomes in
terms of publications or submissions for publication after controlling for the incoming
potential of a doctoral student sample. In this well-designed study, Green and Bauer
explored the relationship among the attitudes, abilities, and commitment of students at
entry into the program and two outcome factors: productivity (number of convention
papers, journal articles, book chapters, and grants/contracts accepted) and level of
mentoring. Support was found for the hypotheses that greater student abilities at entry
would predict an increase in mentoring received. Furthermore, the hypothesis that
increased mentoring positively contributed to student productivity or commitment to
research career was not supported, again controlling for participants' incoming
characteristics. These investigators concluded that advisors look for incoming students
with high potential and commitment and provide more mentoring for them than for their
less capable or less motivated peers. This also raises a question concerning the motivation
of mentors who are unable to find the time to help those students who may need it most.
Thus, while some authors attribute student's not receiving mentoring to students'
own personality characteristics (e.g., Johnson and Huwe, 2003 cite possible protege
narcissism, arrogance, inappropriate boundaries, or procrastination), others (e.g., Lovitts,
2001) believe that the mentor, being older (usually), wiser (hopefully), of higher status
and power, and being in a position to know the larger picture, inherits a greater
responsibility to manage the relationship in a positive way. It seems unlikely that the
problems are either simple or categorical. In either case, although graduate schools must
recruit highly motivated and competent students, once a student is recruited by the school
and accepted by an advisor, the school and the advisor assume an obligation to facilitate
the student's development (Council of Graduate Schools, 1990; University of Florida,
1997; University of Kansas, 2003).
In summary, then, the literature generally supports the positive outcomes
attributed to mentoring relationships for both the protege and the mentor. However, there
is some reason for hesitation regarding the absolute value of the research until additional
work is conducted clarifying the potential confound of student factors at entry. It can
safely be inferred that the same considerations apply in a business context as well.
Obstacles to the Relationship
As with the preceding limitations regarding the positive nature of mentoring
outcomes, another concern needs to be addressed. Not all mentoring relationships are
positive experiences in themselves — for the protege or the mentor. Research suggests that
a significant number of proteges have had bad experiences in mentoring relationships
(Eby, MacManus, Simon, & Russell, 2000). A number of authors have explored this issue
and have described characteristics of dysfunctional mentoring relationships (Johnson &
Huwe, 2003; Kram, 1985; Lovitts, 2001; O'Neil & Wrightsman, 2001; Scandura, 1998;
Wright & Wright, 1987).
O'Neil and Wrightsman (2001) identified a number of negative behaviors in
which either or both the mentor and the protege may engage: using threats, being overly
authoritarian or submissive, being unavailable, acting sexist, racist, classist, ethnocentric,
or homophobic, being intellectually rigid, being unwilling to compromise, encouraging
dependence, abusing confidential information, devaluing other students or faculty,
playing one-upmanship, and/or comparing other students and faculty. Scandura (1992), in
his typology of dysfunctional behaviors, add to this list sabotage, spoiling, deception, and
Structural, Department Specific, and Relational Obstacles
Johnson and Huwe (2003) divided the major obstacles to mentoring into the
following three categories: (a) structural, (b) department specific, and (c) relational.
Structural obstacles are products of the system in which they are imbedded (e.g., graduate
schools). These obstacles include giving the faculty or managers job credit only for
immediate productivity or funded research, or the hiring of part-time employees or
student instructors, thereby reducing the pool of available mentors.
The second category of obstacles to mentoring described by Johnson and Huwe is
department specific, representing problems in the culture of the particular department.
Examples of department specific obstacles are admitting more students than the
department can support or graduate (thus setting up competition and an expectation of
failure), failing to hire and keep minority or women faculty or managers, and failing to
concretely support mentoring with reduced teaching or productivity requirements or by
including successful mentoring in promotion decisions (Johnson & Huwe, 2003).
The third category of obstacles, relational problems, stem from the personality
characteristics and behavior patterns of a particular faculty mentor, manager, or protege,
or the interactions of traits in the mentor and the protege. Scandura (1992), for example,
developed a model for conceptualizing factors contributing to possible outcomes of
dysfunctional relationships. This model includes both protege and mentor characteristics
(e.g., demographics, personality) as contributing factors, and describes possible negative
outcomes to proteges (e.g., low self-esteem, poor job outcomes, stress, leaving), and to
mentors (e.g., stress, jealousy, overdependence, betrayal).
Additionally, as previously noted, mentors tend to select and invest in those
proteges who are considered most promising and whose interests are most similar to the
mentor's interests. Johnson and Huwe (2003) expressed concerns about equal access to
mentoring among students who are less exceptional. These authors further noted that
discrepant expectations between the mentor and the protege concerning the character and
functions of mentoring could lead to dissatisfaction and dysfunction in the mentoring
These obstacles to the mentoring relationship, at whatever level, can have a
significant impact on the quality of the relationship. For example, mentors who are not
given the support they need to fulfill their roles as mentors must often focus their time,
energy, and attention on the needs of their "primary" assignments, perhaps sacrificing the
needs of the protege in the process. Proteges whose expectations are rudely disconfirmed,
or whose mentors are more focused on departmental requirements of tenure, may find
that having a mentor is not worth the trouble. Often proteges in this situation find
themselves getting their needs met elsewhere, and by other people.
Risks to Mentors
Wright and Wright (1987) noted that the mentor also is at risk in the relationship.
Taking on a commitment to a protege is highly demanding of both time and effort and
also may cost political capital if the protege fails to live up to expectations or needs
excessive protection from the consequences of mistakes. Often, especially in the so-
called hard sciences, the mentor's work and reputation are on the line when a protege is
given responsibility for some critical aspect of the mentor's research. Additionally, the
protege could prove to be unable to develop appropriate autonomy and become unable to
carry out tasks without constant supervision or "baby-sitting." On the other hand, the
mentor, who hopefully has invested him or herself personally in the protege, may be
rejected by them.
Researchers generally agree that potential problems and obstacles inherent in
mentoring relationships include personality, as well as organizational factors. Some
authors (e.g., Johnson & Huwe, 2003; Walfish & Hess, 2001) have explored these
problems more fully and presented relevant discussion regarding how to negotiate these
issues in a mentoring context. Invariably, these authors recommend approaching the
selection process and the relationship in an intentional and informed manner, given the
enormous time, energy, financial, and emotional investment.
Other Factors That Affect the Mentoring Relationship
Insofar as mentoring may be one of the most important interpersonal relationships
ever experienced by students, both personally and professionally (Gilbert & Rossman,
1992; Kram, 1985; Tinto, 1987), understanding the impact of gender, ethnicity, and other
cultural factors on the mentoring processes and outcomes also holds significant import
(Bogat & Redner, 1985). Since mentoring relationships are often based on perceived
similarities between mentor and protege, cultural differences may inhibit their formation
and functioning (Atkinson, Neville, & Casas, 1990; Redmond, 1990). In addition, the
lack of same-gender, same-ethnicity, or other identity-affirming role models may create
difficulties in identity development as the protege strives to identify with or internalize a
mentor who has limited insight into the protege's culture or concerns (Bruss & Kopala,
1993; Levinson, 1978).
The impact of gender on mentoring has received the greatest attention among
researchers. The almost ubiquitous inclusion of gender as a demographic variable in
research has facilitated this exploration, and provides important information. Gender
effects have often been analyzed and noted, even in studies primarily designed to explore
Another factor that may influence the relative frequency of including the gender
variable is the number of women conducting research on mentoring relationships. In fact,
many of the foundational and ongoing researchers are women (e.g., Chao, 1997;
Fagenson, 1988, 1992; Hite, 1985; Hollingsworth & Fassinger, 2002; Jacobi, 1991;
Kram, 1983; Lovitts, 2001; Missirian, 1982; Murray, 1991; Scandura, 1998; Wilde &
Schau, 1991; Zuckerman, 1977). Whatever the reasons for this proportion of female
researchers, the insight they provide may be helpful in understanding the issues inherent
in the question.
Some areas of concern raised by authors include factors that pertain to non-
mentoring relationships as well. For example, in exploring gender differences in
relationships with significant power differentials between the individuals involved,
Scandura (1992) explored concerns regarding sexual harassment. Female proteges, in
particular, may be faced with situations in which the person with the most power over her
professional or academic outcomes is a male who adheres to certain stereotypes that
entitle him to favors from female underlings. Conversely, a male mentor may, with the
best of intentions, be overprotective or excessively forgiving of a female protegee, thus
encouraging feelings of dependence or incompetence, and perhaps denying the protege
the opportunity to develop autonomy or independence (Clawson & Kram, 1984; Kram,
1983). Bogat and Redner (1985) discussed reservations on the part of some faculty that
women are able to complete graduate school, and some faculty member's perceptions
that women were less likely to make significant contributions to their fields than men.
Mixed-gender mentoring dyads also must be aware not only of their own
interpersonal behaviors, but also of public perceptions. Rumors may develop based on
observed togetherness or friendship behaviors misconstrued as sexual intimacy (Wright
& Wright, 1987). Male mentors especially may actually maintain unnecessary distance in
an effort to address or preempt these kinds of concerns, thus limiting the protege's access
to them or depriving the protege of important social interactions (Clawson & Kram,
As with any interpersonal relationship, then, many factors may be cause for
concern in cross-gendered relationships. These difficulties are often exacerbated by the
inclusion of personal characteristics as well as social/cultural perceptions and
expectations. It is thus important that mentors and proteges recognize and maintain
professional boundaries — neither too rigid nor too permeable — lest the relationship be no
longer a positive mentoring experience.
Regarding specific mentoring functions and outcomes, the empirical research into
the effects of gender on the mentoring relationship is more ambivalent, with some
researchers finding no effect and others finding significant effects. Ragins and Cotton's
(1999) study of 352 female and 257 male proteges found that the gender composition of
the mentoring dyad affected functions and outcomes. For example, female-female
mentor-protege pairs were more likely to engage in after-work social activities than were
female proteges with male mentors. Male proteges with female mentors were less likely
to report having received acceptance functions from their mentor than any other gender
combinations, and both male and female proteges who have had male mentors received
more compensation than did those who have had female mentors. This could be
explained by Cameron and Blackburn's (1981) findings that proteges sponsored by men
developed significantly larger networking associations than did women.
Further complicating matters, findings concerning gender differences often appear
to depend on the outcomes measured. Burke, McKeen, and McKenna's (1990) study of
81 male and 13 female mentors found that female mentors provided both more career and
more psychosocial functions than did male mentors, yet there were no differences in
outcome measures as a function of gender of mentor or protege. In a subsequent study of
280 female business graduates, Burke and McKeen (1996) again reported few differences
in job satisfaction, career satisfaction, job involvement, or career prospects for female
proteges regardless of mentors' gender. Interestingly, although women with female
mentors received more psychosocial support than did women with male mentors, these
women were more likely to report their intentions to quit the organization. This finding
was not explained by the available data.
Among same-sex and cross-sex dyads in a sample of 466 female proteges in
business, Gaskill (1991) found differences between male and female mentors in functions
performed (female mentors performed more psychosocial functions), relationship
initiation (male mentors were more likely to unilaterally initiate a relationship, whereas
female mentors were more likely to mutually initiate the relationship), and protege
characteristics. No differences, however, were found in mentor characteristics, benefits
derived, problems reported, duration, termination causes, feelings about the relationship,
or reported value of the relationship. These findings support the hypothesis that women
benefit as much from male mentors as they do from female mentors.
On the other hand, a number of researchers have more consistently found that
gender has no impact on mentoring initiation, functions, or outcomes. Wilde and Schau
(1991) surveyed 177 graduate students (60% female) and found no differences in
psychological and professional mutual support, comprehensiveness, protege professional
development, and research together as a function of gender of protege, mentor, or cross-
gendered dyads. Furthermore, Fagenson (1988, 1992) found no differences as a function
of gender between mentored and non-mentored proteges regarding need for power,
autonomy, affiliation, achievement, or perceptions of power in the organization.
Surveying 80 female and 80 male executives, Ragins and Scandura (1994) explored
anecdotal reports that women were less likely to mentor than were men. Findings
revealed that women executives were as likely as men to be mentors, had every intention
of mentoring other women, and that women and men reported similar perceptions of the
costs and benefits of being mentors.
Turban and Dougherty (1994) also found no differences in their sample of
proteges in business (74 men, 73 women) in the probability that they would seek out and
develop a mentoring relationship or in the amount of mentoring they received. In their
study of 135 female and 59 male 3rd- and 4th-year doctoral students, Hollingsworth and
Fassinger (2002) found that student gender did not have an effect on the level of research
mentoring received, on student's research self-efficacy, or on research productivity
outcomes. Dreher and Ash (1990), studying 147 female and 173 male business school
graduates, similarly found no gender differences in the outcomes measures of promotions
received, income, or satisfaction with pay and benefits.
Trying to explain the differences in the research on gender in mentoring is,
perhaps, an exercise in futility. There are no clearly identifiable methodological problems
(e.g., sampling, data acquisition) to which the differences might be attributed. However,
three patterns seem to emerge. First, the gender of the protege and the gender of the
mentor appear to influence some of the processes, yet these influences may be a result of
general socialization patterns in society. For example, the increase in psychosocial
functions by both female mentors and proteges is consistent with the relational
stereotypes associated with women. Second, gender effects on outcomes are minimal and
may also be attributable to social or external issues, such as the relatively lower status
and power of women (and thus of female mentors and proteges) in academia or industry.
Finally, both men and women may nonetheless be equally well served by either male or
Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, and Other Cultural Factors
Regarding the impact of ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other cultural factors in
mentoring the literature is significantly smaller and much newer. In some cases, it has
little to say at all (Gilbert and Rossman, 1992; Johnson & Huwe, 2003; Wright & Wright,
1987). In a recent book on succeeding in graduate school, a chapter on graduate student
couples does not even mention gay or lesbian couples, an increasingly common and
public relationship arrangement (Pederson & Daniels, 2001. Issues specific to gay,
lesbian, bisexual, transgendered persons (GLBT) are, however, discussed elsewhere in
the volume.) In another recent book on mentoring in graduate school (Johnson & Huwe,
2002), no reference to sexual orientation could be found at all, and attraction between
mentors and proteges seemed to be of concern only in cross-gendered relationships.
As with any minority culture or group, concerns vary from blatant discrimination
to identity development issues. Institutionalized racism continues to have effects on
persons of color (Atkinson, Morton, & Sue, 1998), and legal discrimination against
GLBT persons continues in many states (e.g., denying protection against discrimination
in housing, education, and jobs. Massey & Walfish, 2001). Handicapped persons, older
persons, international students or employees, and other minorities are all at increased risk
for experiencing prejudice and discrimination. Finding mentors who are similar or who
are informed and openly sympathetic can be extremely comforting to a student or
employee as she or he negotiates, not only the academic or employment tasks common to
all, but also relevant social and cultural tasks (Hill, Castillo, Ngu, & Pepion, 1999; Lark
& Croteau, 1998; Redmond, 1990).
Fortunately, current research suggests that ethnic minorities are receiving
mentoring at approximately the same rate as Caucasians (Witt, Smith, & Markham,
2000), and that having an ethnically similar mentor is not related to proteges satisfaction
with the mentoring or to the benefits reported by doctoral student or novice professional
proteges (Atkinson, Neville, & Casas, 1991). Atkinson et al., noting that minority
proteges reported that having a mentor contributed significantly to their academic and
career success regardless of the mentor's ethnicity, concluded that European- American
professors and senior professionals can successfully serve as mentors to ethnic minority
proteges. It should be noted, however, that each individual will have his or her own racial
identity developmental status (Helms, 1995), which is likely to influence the importance
of the ethnic similarity of the mentor to the student or novice professional.
Only two empirical articles (Lark & Croteau, 1998; Niolon, 1998) were found that
focused on GLBT doctoral students' mentoring experiences. Lark and Croteau looked
more specifically at the mentoring relationships of 14 GLB counseling psychology
graduate students and found that when their mentor helped them feel safe and affirmed
them in their identities, the proteges' had the "energy and freedom" to fully engage the
work of graduate school. When they did not have this support, when they did not receive
affirmation and did not feel safe, their energies were tied up with emotional survival, and
their ability to participate in and gain from the graduate student experience and training
was severely compromised. Niolon (1998) interviewed nine gay and lesbian graduate
counseling psychology students and found that they did not have what they would refer to
as mentoring relationships with faculty, the faculty were not knowledgeable or
experienced with GLBT issues or concerns, and that they had numerous stressful
experiences and experienced prejudice and discrimination as gay and lesbian students.
These students, too, were often expending their energies on emotional survival, instead of
on graduate training and professional development.
As is evident, there is much room for additional research on mentoring in diverse
populations. In terms of ethnic minorities, the research to date is generally positive,
suggesting that minorities are being mentored and that they are satisfied with the
mentoring they are receiving. The research regarding GLBT students is not as clear.
Additional work clearly needs to be done, not only concerning research on mentoring, but
also on the mentoring and acceptance of the GLBT students themselves (Lark & Croteau,
1998; Massey & Walfish, 2001).
Ethical Concerns in the Mentoring Relationship
Mentoring is, almost by definition, a dual role relationship. The existence of
multiple overlapping roles in the context of the significant power differentials found in
the typical mentoring relationship is fertile ground for ethical problems. Boundary
violations, abuse of authority, sexual harassment, transference issues, stereotypical
expectations, and other problems are well suited to such contexts. Some fields
specifically address these concerns in ethics codes. For example, the American
Psychological Association's ethical guidelines (APA, 2002) specifically prohibits certain
multiple role relationships for psychologists, such as sexual or exploitative relationships
with students or those over whom psychologist's have evaluative authority, as well as
relationships in which there may be a conflict of interest.
In a survey of graduate students in psychology, Clark, et al. (2000) found that
11% of proteges reported ethical concerns about their mentors or mentoring relationships.
These problems included mentor's sexual behaviors and attitudes towards the protege or
other students in the program, the mentor publishing altered results, offering the protege
financial incentives to alter results, the mentor having poor boundaries or becoming
emotionally dependent on the protege, and mentors claiming credit for the protege's
Further examples of possible ethical quagmires in mentoring abound (Biaggio,
Paget, & Chenworth, 1997; Blevins-Knabe, 1992; Johnson & Huwe 2003; Sumprer &
Walfish, 2001). A mentor might employ a protege on a major grant project, for example,
and feel pressured to judge the protege's work according to the need to finish the project,
rather than according to its objective quality. A mentor might characterize a protege's
work and ideas as their own. A mentor and protege might develop an intimate attraction
to each other. After all, many mentoring relationships are based on similarities and shared
interests and often develop into close working relationships. Although proteges often
assert that they did not feel coerced during the relationship, in retrospect they may see
that they often were, which undermines their assertions that such relationships were
consensual (Johnson, 2002). A mentor may "suggest" or "request" favors or behaviors
that have little to do with the academic or employment tasks, such as delivering things, or
Few would contend that dual relationships are avoidable in the mentoring context,
or that such a thing is necessary (Blevins-Knabe, 1992). Unfortunately, proteges are not
typically in a position to correct or address ethical concerns. Proteges are not often
inclined to accuse — publicly or privately — the person who has the most individual power
over their positions or education. Recommendations to talk to the offender are probably
more helpful to people who are strong enough in themselves to head off many of these
concerns in the first place. Additionally, department officials may choose to ignore
complaints of students for political reasons. If a 30-year senior professor or manager
denies the validity of a complaint or misrepresents it, no recourse may be available to the
It is argued that at minimum, mentors and proteges need to be educated in areas of
possible ethical concern, and that they clarify at the beginning of their relationships a
mutual recognition of the boundaries. Furthermore, mentors must monitor their own
behaviors with and attitudes towards proteges and accept responsibility for the power that
they have in the relationships (Biaggio et al., 1997). At the departmental level, it is
recommended that mentors be monitored for their competence as mentors and that, if
necessary, they receive supplemental training in the nature of the mentoring relationship
and in mentoring skills before they are allowed to take on graduate students or novice
employees (Johnson & Nelson, 1999).
Introduction to the Method
As was pointed out, an area of research that has received less attention is that of
the subjective factors in the mentoring relationship that lead one to characterize it as a
good relationship. Researchers have explored phases, functions, outcomes, and diversity
issues, not always with clear success, but have not often turned their attentions to the
subjective experience of mentoring. While it has been noted that satisfaction with the
mentoring relationship is significantly predictive of a number of positive outcomes, from
joining department activities to completing the doctoral degree, little has be done to
elaborate what subject factors contribute to this satisfaction.
The purpose of this project, then, is to explore the subjective factors in the
mentoring relationship. In order to accomplish this task, it will be important to use a
qualitative method that will allow the emergence of those factors that are construed as
important by the participants in the relationship. The goal is not to describe form or
function, but experience.
Value of Qualitative Research
The importance of qualitative research methodology in the understanding of
human interactions has been noted by a number of authors (Giorgi, 1990, 1992; Jacobi,
1991; Polkinghorn, 1994). The value of qualitative research is found in its ability to tease
out factors that are subtle, idiographic, and often resistant to direct approach. For
example, the affective quality of a relationship may not be amenable to conscious
cognitive processing, and thus may be quite difficult to explore using an operationalized
survey (i.e., to quantify). And although qualitative research is often construed to be
preliminary to a presumably more rigorous quantitative confirmatory methodology, some
theorists recognize the intrinsic value of qualitative research methods in some areas of
interest (Giorgi, 1990, 1992; Glaser, 1992; Glaser & Strauss, 1967, 1970). As Glaser and
Strauss noted, "Qualitative research is often the most 'adequate' and 'efficient' method
for obtaining the type of information required. . . " (1970, p. 289).
The value of qualitative research has not been overlooked in the research on
mentoring, both in terms of data acquisition as well as in terms of analysis. Interviews
and surveys using open-ended questions are common methods of data acquisition, and
qualitative analyses such as phenomenological, content, and grounded theory have been
used. The grounded theory approach, for example, incorporates both a methodology and
a logic that support the value of qualitative research. This approach has been used by a
number of researchers in the mentoring literature (Kram, 1985; Lark & Croteau, 1998;
Niolon, 1997). Indeed, grounded theory is an excellent method for exploring the nuances
and subtleties of the mentoring relationship that are being sought here.
In grounded theory, as with other paradigms, the researcher begins with a
question of interest about a particular situation. The goal is to understand what is
happening (e.g., what people are doing, why they are doing it). What differentiates
grounded theory is that it is exploratory, rather than confirmatory (Giorgi, 1992). That is,
it is designed to allow for the relevant factors to emerge from the research situation,
rather than to seek confirmation of a hypothesis that is mapped onto the situation by the
investigator. As noted by Corbin and Strauss (1990), "One does not begin with a theory
and then prove it. Rather, one begins with an area of study, and what is relevant to that
area is allowed to emerge" (p. 23).
Even more salient, grounded theory is concerned with developing "substantive
theory" (Glaser & Strauss, 1970), which is "the formulation of concepts and their
interrelation into a set of hypotheses for a given substantive area — such as patient care,
gang behavior, or education — based on research in that area" (p. 288). Thus, the goal is
not merely to understand what is happening, but also to develop a theory within which to
Focusing on the emergence of substantive theory, grounded research is also
differentiated from quantitative methods in how the findings are construed and judged.
Dick (2002) noted that the two main criteria forjudging the adequacy (vs. validity and
reliability) of the results of a grounded theory are fit and pragmatism (i.e., that it works,
and it helps people understand the situation better). Grounded theory does not assert that
any researcher's conclusions are the only plausible ones, only that if the research is
carefully carried out, the findings will be sufficiently credible to most readers, and
adequately and accurately represent the area of interest (Glaser & Strauss, 1970). Nor are
the categories focused on and elaborated by the researcher the only possible categories of
interest in the situation. Other factors may be active and interesting, but not all things can
be attended to in any one project (Glaser, 1992).
Grounded Theory Methodology
The grounded theory method is based on a well-developed logic that establishes
meaningful guidelines for both data acquisition and data analysis. These guidelines,
described by Glaser and Strauss (1967), provide important support for the
meaningfulness of the findings and their credibility to the reader. A number of sources
can be utilized in data collection, including focus groups, existing literature, naturalistic
observation, informal discussion, and interviews. Interactive interviews, typically using
open-ended questions and a semi-structured or unstructured format, are common
approaches (Dick, 2002). The primary advantage is that themes and insights emerge in
dialectic and can be explored in vivo if the investigator is inclined. Giorgi (1990) notes
that interviews provide important contextual information for the apprehension of the
intended meaning of the respondent. Therefore, interviews will be the source of data on
the mentoring relationship in the present study.
Although reviewing the literature is a standard process in research and developing
the research question, the researcher does not follow this approach in grounded theory. In
fact, Glaser (1992) clearly stated, "There is a need not to review any of the literature in
the substantive area under study" (p. 31; emphasis added). The purpose of not reviewing
the literature is to avoid biasing the researcher by unnecessarily creating a priori
cognitive structures regarding the area of interest. Similarly, grounded theory recognizes
explicitly the subjective factor introduced by the interpretive and inductive nature of the
analytic procedure. Although this is one of the great strengths of qualitative research, it
also necessarily entails the introduction of an uncontrolled variance in the outcomes (i.e.,
already existing cognitive structures). Unlike phenomenology, which asks researchers to
withhold personal perspectives and biases, grounded theory asserts that this is neither
necessary, nor likely possible. Grounded theory instead presents a brief description of the
researcher — much as a description of any other instrument — so that readers can ascertain
for themselves the influence of the researcher on the theory presented. Note that the
purpose is not to determine the validity of the findings, per se, but their context and
Insofar as a central feature of grounded theory is the data-driven nature of the
methodology, it is difficult to specify exactly the number of participants who will be
interviewed. Grounded theory requires that the data sets (indicated in this case as the
number of interviews and/or participants) be augmented until the categories are saturated;
that is, until no further information is being gleaned from additional data sets (Dick,
2002; Glaser, 1967; Rennie, Phillips, & Quartaro, 1988). In general, the criterion for
selection follows two steps. First, there is a focus on discovering the core features of the
phenomenon of interest, which is accomplished by interviewing persons who both
represent the phenomena and who are similar to each other in some relevant way.
The second step is to introduce variability into the data set in order to sample
exceptions to the emerging theoretical hypotheses (theory-based sampling, rather than
random sampling) and thus strengthen the generalizability of the emerging theory. This is
accomplished by interviewing participants who are somehow dissimilar from the
previous participants, or who do not represent the topic in the same way. In analogous
quantitative terms, this procedure provides data both within and between.
Having said this, the literature regarding this general type of qualitative research,
sparse though it is in this specific topic area, would seem to suggest that about five
interviews are preliminarily indicated for a given question, as saturation typically occurs
after analyzing 5 to 10 data sets (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Rennie, Phillips, & Quartaro,
1988). Based upon the foregoing considerations, the present study will include interviews
conducted with four to five individuals in each of the following three categories: (a)
highly rated faculty mentors, (b) satisfied graduate student proteges, and (c) dissatisfied
graduate student proteges.
Analysis in grounded theory methodology is a multi-step process and is highly
labor intensive. Analysis begins as soon as the interviews begin and continues throughout
the study. As the interviewer begins to interact with the data presented by participants,
hypotheses and themes are already being developed and tested. This continues after each
interview as the researcher again reviews the data looking for themes and categories. As
each interview is conducted, themes from previous interviews are kept in mind, and
hypotheses are tested between participants as well as within each interview. This is
referred to as constant comparison, and is central to the method. The value of constant
comparison is that the perceptions and developing interpretations of the researcher are
constantly checked against the data, thus interfering with the development of
misconceptions and ungrounded assumptions.
The first step in the formal analysis, open coding, is a process in which each unit
of analysis is independently evaluated for possible meanings. What stands for a unit of
analysis is flexible, but once defined by the researcher remains consistent throughout
open coding. Glaser and Strauss (1967) recommend that each line of a transcript be
considered a unit, whereas Rennie et al. (1988) prefer to delineate the data according to
coherent meaning units , an option that will also be used in this project. Each meaning
unit is evaluated and categorized or labeled according to the concepts embedded in the
data. This process is referred to as open coding because there are a priori neither
theoretical nor procedural limits on the categories or meanings that may be established.
To clarify, data is reviewed word-by-word and line-by-line in order to delineate
sections that cohere semantically, yet are distinguishable from the surrounding material.
Each of these delineated sections (i.e., meaning units ) is labeled according to whatever
semantic content it was that caused the researcher to be able to isolate the semantic unit
(i.e., the concept). At this stage, concept generation is to be descriptive, thus the labels
should use language representative of the language used by the interviewees. These
concept labels are established as categories, and the meaning units themselves are
established as exemplars of the category. Any time a meaning unit is evaluated (in any
data set) that can be labeled similarly to an existing category, it will be placed in that
category (i.e., be given the same label).
As the open coding process continues, each newly evaluated meaning unit is
assigned to as many of the existing categories as possible. If no category exists that
represents the meaning embedded in the data, a new category is established. Ultimately,
some finite set of categories will emerge that adequately represent the data, and
additional meaning units will no longer require the development of new categories or
labels, which is a condition known as saturation .
Throughout the data analysis, the researcher's hunches and theoretical notions are
recorded separately from the data and from the categorizations, a process referred to as
memoing . These memoranda allow the researcher to record for later consideration
hypotheses, notions, and ideas that emerge during the analysis, and at the same time are
designed to reduce drift away from grounding in the data by making explicit the
Axial coding , the second step of the analysis, is a process in which the developed
categories are individually examined in order to more fully elaborate their content and
meaning in the researchers mind. At the same time, the contents are compared and
evaluated between categories and their exemplars for differences and similarities. The
goal is to develop a second level of abstraction that more fully integrates the data, finding
connections between categories and concepts. Some of the emergent higher-level
categories will be linked to a greater number of subordinate categories and concepts,
resulting in a hierarchical integration of the data as more concepts derived directly from
the data are subsumed by fewer core categories. Categories that have few or no links are
either collapsed into other categories or dropped altogether.
The final step in the analysis, selective coding , occurs when the researcher
evaluates the data in search of the most central or core category, one that would subsume
all the others in a coherent and parsimonious structure. This would be the category most
related to others and is typically very well defined by the structure. Glaser and Strauss
(1967, 1978) suggest that once a core category is defined, no further open coding is done
for any data not subsumable by the category (thus, selective coding). Is essence, although
other data are certainly present and may be of interest, they are distractions from the
emerging focus in any given project. Glaser and Strauss (1967) note that the unused data
could be used for another paper if desired, thus further representing the focused nature of
In summary, coherent units of meaning within the data are identified and labeled
according to the conceptual term by which they were identified. The meaning units and
concepts are then evaluated and compared unit with unit and unit with concept to see if
more categories emerge. If there are similarities and/or differences among them that lend
themselves to a hierarchical ordering, some of the categories will subsume some of the
others, and some will be subsumed. This structure, which can be multi-leveled, will be
further evaluated to see is there is some category that is sufficiently well distributed and
linked so as to represent a core or central category that might subsume all the others.
Once the analysis is complete, the researcher should have a well-delineated and strongly
empirically grounded model of the phenomenon under investigation. This structure can,
if desired, be subjected to a verification process using more traditional experimental
methods as it provides the a priori structure necessary for deductive hypotheses.
Verification, however, is not advocated by grounded theory practitioners and may even
diminish the value of the findings through operationalization and reification (Glaser,
Other researchers have explored the costs and benefits of being a mentor (e.g.,
Ragins & Scandura, 1999), the contribution of personality factors to the quality and
effectiveness of the mentoring relationship (e.g., Turban & Dougherty, 1994), and the
variance introduced into outcomes based on whether the relationship is voluntary or
assigned (e.g., Chao, Walz, & Gardner, 1992).
Thirteen individuals were interviewed for this research: four award winning
mentors, five satisfied proteges, and four dissatisfied proteges. Three of the mentors were
men, and one was a woman. One of the male mentors was a distinguished professor of
psychology, one was associate dean of the graduate school and professor of psychology,
the third male mentor was a professor of reproductive physiology and biology, and the
female mentor was a professor of pharmacology and toxicology. These mentors were
solicited at two major universities from among those who had been conferred mentoring
awards, as determined by a search of the web sites of the two institutions.
Satisfied proteges were identified by asking the interviewed mentors to provide
the names of students they had mentored, or by word of mouth. Two of the satisfied
proteges were men, and three were women. One woman was in her final year of seeking
her doctorate in clinical psychology. The second woman was 5th-year student seeking a
doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology, and the third woman was in her 4th year of
work toward doctorate in pharmacology and toxicology. One of the men had completed
his doctorate in developmental psychology, and the other man was a 2nd-year student in
a doctoral program in clinical psychology.
Dissatisfied proteges were identified by e-mailing graduate student organization
leaders and asking for word-of-mouth recommendations of students who were not happy
with the mentoring or advising they had received. Two participants were men and two
were women. The first woman was seeking a doctorate in ethno-botany, but decided to
leave with a master's degree, in part because of the extremely poor support she received.
The second woman had intended to work towards a doctoral degree in cultural
anthropology, but also was leaving her program due to lack of support. One man had
completed his doctorate in child psychology, and another will complete his doctorate in
clinical psychology this year.
Each potential participant was contacted by e-mail by the researcher and offered
the opportunity to participate in the research. In no case were mentors made aware of
which, if any, of their proteges were solicited or interviewed. All participants were fully
apprised of the research questions and procedure, and were given the opportunity to
decline or withdraw from participation at any time. Informed consent was obtained, and a
copy was given to each participant (Appendix A).
An important feature of the grounded theory method is the explicit recognition
that the researcher is the primary research instrument and that the personal characteristics
and history of the researcher will impact the interpretation of the data and the
development of the theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1990). It is
recommended, therefore, that the researcher provide information regarding his or her own
history to facilitate the reader's evaluations of the validity and generalizability of the
findings, which are necessarily shaped by the characteristics of the researcher. This is in
contrast to a phenomenological method, in which the researcher attempts to "bracket" or
withhold the influence of her or his biases (see Giorgi 1990, 1992).
I am 45-year-old man in a counseling psychology doctoral program. I consider
psychology to be my third career. My first career was in the electronics industry, where I
spent 1 5 years as an electronics technician and then as a middle level manager. My
second career was as a foster parent. In addition to raising our own three daughters, my
wife and I cared for 30 medically and therapeutically needy foster children (mostly
infants and young girls) over an 8-year period. These experiences have likely altered my
perspectives from what might be expected from someone who had never raised children
or from someone who had gone straight through school into their doctoral program.
My status as a doctoral student in psychology not only will affect my thoughts
and interpretations, but also in a few cases was noted by the interviewees. As a doctoral
student, there was a strong commonality with the proteges, who were going through the
same process, and seeking many of the same things in their careers and lives. Some of the
interviewees appeared to be influenced by my status as a student in psychology (e.g., the
myth that psychologists have some sort of "secret knowledge" about people and behavior
seemed to appear with some of the participants). Certainly, being a student of psychology
provides me with a framework that will bias my perceptions and interpretations. In that
psychology is uniquely suited to explore relationships, however, this bias might better be
construed as an advantage rather than as a negative influence.
My age and gender likely also played a role in the interactions with some of the
participants, as well as in my self-perceptions and presentations. For example, it was
perhaps easier for me to develop rapport with the mentors than a younger interviewer.
My life experience also appeared to facilitate the interaction, as topics less focused on
mentoring often arose as I worked to develop this rapport. Whether the interviewees were
more open with me than they might have been with a younger person is open to question,
but seems plausible. My age may have had an influence on the younger proteges that
were interviewed, especially as they knew little about me except that I was a graduate
student. The international student protege, a young woman from Thailand, may have
been more strongly influenced by her cultural deference to older males in positions of
authority (this was briefly discussed in reference to her mentor, who was also an older
As a student, I consider that I have been positively mentored by four different
people. Each of these has had significantly different styles as well as influences on me,
from extensive personal support to technical and research mentoring to a more detached
but safe-base style of support. Each was important to my success and survival in their
own way. Prior to being a student, during my years in business and as a parent, I was also
well mentored. A variety of people fulfilled this role in my life, but none with the focus
on the task as I have experienced as a student. I have also been poorly mentored, both as
a student and in business, by individuals who appeared to be indifferent to my training,
educational, or personal needs, and who might reasonably have been expected to have an
obligation to meet those needs. Given these experiences, I was able to draw on personal
experience when interacting with both satisfied and dissatisfied proteges. Having had
both experiences, however, may have helped prevent an excessive bias in either direction.
There are other factors not noted here, no doubt some of which I am unaware. The
foregoing is provided so that the reader might have some basic information about one of
the critical instruments used in this research. As noted by Glaser and Strauss (1967), "The
root source of all significant theorizing is the sensitive insights of the observer himself."
This section will describe the various aspects of the grounded theory procedures
utilized in the present study. It will include discussion of data acquisition and data
Each of the participants was interviewed by the researcher in a private milieu.
The focus of the interviews was to learn what factors contribute to the qualification of the
mentoring relationship as "good." Although participants were asked to describe or define
"good mentoring," the problem of definition discussed earlier was not addressed. If a
mentoring relationship was asserted, the assertion was accepted at face value. The
question of interest in this project, as noted, was to differentiate a "good" relationship,
not, for example, mentored vs. non-mentored, or formal vs. informal mentoring.
The semi-structured interview began with a selection of open-ended questions
designed to both create a comfortable atmosphere for the discourse, as well as to facilitate
and direct the conversation towards the topic of interest. The questions focused on the
mentoring relationship and process, yet were exploratory and elicitory. Again, neither
"mentoring" nor "good" were defined for the participants, who were all able to easily
identify someone who was, or should have been, their mentor. The following are some of
the questions used to initiate the discussions:
1 . How would define good mentoring relationship?
2. What might be some characteristics of a good mentor?
3. What could [the mentor] have done to make it work better for you?
4. What kinds of things made the relationship "work" for you?
5. What are some of the things that make a lousy mentor?
As the interviews proceeded, thoughts and insights occurred to the researcher
regarding potential emergent themes in the reports of the participants. Tentative
hypotheses were developed, which guided the formulation of additional questions, as
attempts were made to confirm or disconfirm these insights. Examples of further
enquires, then, followed the following form:
1 . How does that make you feel?
2. Is it a part of the mentors job to . . .?
3. What do you think that gets you at a psychological level?
4. How does it feel to have a mentor that you believe in that way. . .?
5. Why is that important to you?
Interviews were continued until both interviewer and interviewee appeared to have
exhausted the topic. Interviews typically lasted between 60 and 90 minutes.
Although researchers who specialize in grounded theory methodology
recommend against taping or taking notes during an interview (Dick, 2002), taping, note
taking, and transcribing were used in the present study to facilitate the development and
understanding of the data and to allow the researcher review the data if there were
questions or ambiguities in his theory construction. All interviews were thus audio taped.
As the researcher became increasing familiar with the material appearing in the
interviews, cognizant of the major themes, and aware of the significant consistency of the
reports between all of the participants, it was decided that it was unnecessary to
additionally transcribe all of the interviews, and the recordings and thematic notes taken
during the remaining interviews were relied upon. Thus, eight interviews were
transcribed onto hard copy: all four mentors, three satisfied proteges, and one dissatisfied
protege. Partial samples of transcripts are available in the appendices (Appendices B, C,
Analysis was carried out using the grounded theory procedures described earlier.
During each interview, key notes were taken, and developing hypotheses were tested.
Following each interview these notes were reevaluated and additional insights were
noted. Memoranda were written containing possible categories and other theoretical
observations. As each interview was conducted, themes and ideas from previous
interviews and analyses were kept in mind and explored using the method of constant
As noted, in the present study, the interviews with all four mentors (who were
interviewed first), the first three satisfied proteges, and one dissatisfied protege were
transcribed to facilitate this process. The interviews were gone over line-by-line and
subjected to a formal coding process. The first step, open coding, was conducted by the
researcher by going over the transcripts line by line while looking for coherent meaning
units; that is, sections that cohere semantically, and yet are distinguishable from the
surrounding material. (In later interviews, key notes taken during the interviews and
reviewing of the audio tapes replaced full transcription and review.) These "pieces of
semantic coherence" can be labeled using a single descriptive word or phrase, which may
then be referred to as concepts. Each meaning unit, then, was evaluated and labeled
according to the concepts embedded in the data (see Appendix E for an example. Note
that there were at least two iterations of open coding when using transcripts, both on the
transcript as well as on separate note cards. Thus, the sample in the appendix is reduced
and clarified for readability). The concept labels used were chosen not only to reflect the
semantic content, but as much as possible the actual words used by the participant.
These concept labels were established as categories, which were a higher level of
abstraction of the units themselves, the meaning units being exemplars of the category.
Subsequently, any time a meaning unit was evaluated (in any data set) that could be
labeled similarly to an existing meaning unit, it was placed in that category (i.e., be given
the same concept label). As the open coding process continued, each newly evaluated
meaning unit was assigned to as many of the existing categories as possible. If no
category existed that represented the meaning embedded in the data, a new category was
established. Ultimately, a finite set of categories emerged that adequately represent the
data, and no further open coding was carried out. When this occurs, it is said that the
category is saturated, and selective coding begins (see below).
Axial coding, the second step of the analysis, is a process in which the developed
concepts are individually examined in order to more fully elaborate their content and
meaning in the researchers mind. At the same time, the concepts and their exemplars are
compared and evaluated for differences and similarities. The goal is to develop a second
or higher level of abstraction that more fully integrates the data, finding connections
between categories and concepts.
Axial coding was carried out following the procedure delineated by Rennie and
Brewer (1987). All open coding, whether from transcripts or tapes, was carried out using
3X5 cards on which the concepts and representative citations from the data (interviews)
were written. Over one thousand cards were produced in this project. Axial coding was
carried out by placing the cards in columns on a large table according to the meaning or
concept represented. Thus, common concepts, or categories, were represented by the
different columns of cards. As the concepts and their exemplars were compared and
evaluated for differences and similarities, superordinate categories emerged and were
developed, and cards labeling these higher-level categories were placed across the top of
the table. (Again, the concept of semantic factor analysis was found helpful in
conceptualizing the process.) Note that memoranda were also recorded on 3 X 5 cards,
but were not included in the sorting process. Memoranda were, however, referred to in
the structuring of the data and the development of superordinate categories. Numerous
different organizations of the cards were tried before the one selected was settled on as
having the greatest fit and being most representative of the data.
The final step in the analytic process, selective coding, occurs when the researcher
evaluates the data in search of the most central or core category, one that would subsume
all the others in a coherent and parsimonious structure. This was accomplished using the
process described above. As the researcher continued to reexamine the concepts and
categories as well as the emergent hierarchical structure, it became possible to recognize
a common feature that was linked to all the existing categories, and was also a factor
within all of the categories. This factor, positive affect , became the core category of the
analysis, and provided the central organizing principle and discovery of this research.
Again, as with axial coding, a number of possibilities were considered and discarded
before the final selection was confirmed as being most adequate and having the greatest
fit with the data.
In summary, the data (transcripts) were broken down into coherent units of
meaning, which were labeled roughly according to the concept by which they were
identified. Then, these labels and the units they represent were evaluated and compared to
see if there were similarities and/or differences among them that lent themselves to a
hierarchical ordering, such that some of the categories subsumed some of the others, and
some were subsumed. This structure, once derived, was further evaluated to see if there
was some category that was sufficiently well distributed and linked so as to represent a
core or central category that might subsume all the others. It was found that there was:
positive affect. The core category of positive affect and its subordinate categories will be
fully elaborated in the next section.
Four mentors (M), five satisfied proteges (SP), and four dissatisfied proteges
(DP), were interviewed for the present study. The purpose of the interviews was to
uncover factors that might contribute to the qualification of a mentoring relationship as
"good." Neither the term good nor the term mentoring were defined for the interviewees.
All protege participants were able to identify a person or persons whom they considered
as a mentor or, in the case of the DPs, a person whom they expected would mentor them
and did not do so satisfactorily. All Ms were identified in advance by virtue of their
having received mentoring awards.
The contents of the interviews were analyzed using the previously described
grounded theory inductive procedure. All interviews were included in the analysis. There
was very high consistency across all participants, including DPs, in terms of those aspects
that would qualify as central to the goodness of the relationship. The factors selected for
inclusion in this section emerged very early in the interviewing process, continued to
appear in virtually every data set, and subsequently represented the central themes
derived in the analysis.
As the data were analyzed, a central feature of the defining characteristics of a
good mentoring relationship appeared to be the affective nature of the relationship. That
is, when discussing what they thought defined a good mentoring relationship, the most
frequently reported features were related to participants' positive feelings about certain
aspects of their relationships. Since good was not defined for the participants, the focus
on these specific affective aspects of the relationship, rather than the structure or
mechanics of mentoring relationships, was emergent and indicative of the interviewees'
own priorities. Thus, the themes that emerged and the resulting categories of the derived
structure are subsumed under the core category of Positive Affect.
Participants also discussed a wide variety of other factors. Some of these factors
were subsumable into the core or second-level categories. If they were not subsumable
and they could not stand alone due to their relative infrequency, then they were dropped
from the analysis to limit the focus on a single core category as recommended when
using the grounded theory approach (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).
As the core category of the analysis, positive affect defines the features most
relevant to the evaluation of the mentoring relationship as "good," as presented by
participants. Five second-level categories identified within the core category of positive
affect were as follows: (a) feeling respected, (b) feeling valued, (c) feeling safe, (d)
feelings of belonging, and (e) feelings of increasing competence (See Table 1). These
categories are themselves reductions from third-level categories (i.e., themes) that were
derived directly from the data, and each describes areas in which positive affect was
highly salient to the participants. Each of these categories and themes will be discussed,
describing in detail the feelings themselves, ways the feelings are engendered or hindered
in the relationship, and positive correlates of the feelings.
Table 1 . Affective Characteristics of a Good Mentoring Relationship
Second Level Categories Fundamental Concepts/ Themes
Feelings of Belonging and
Feelings of Increasing
Respect of person
Respect of person's right to self-
Time and effort
Not experiencing rejection
Receiving affirmation and
The importance of respect (i.e., proteges' feelings of being respected by their
mentors) was noted by all three sets of participants. However, Ms and DPs drew attention
to it most frequently as of critical importance to a good mentoring relationship. SPs
mentioned the importance of feeling respected by their mentors, but much less frequently
than did the other two groups. This may be attributed to a slight difference in the salience
of certain characteristics to the different groups.
Respect seems to have been construed primarily in one of two ways. First, respect
of a person was based on the individual's belief in another's intrinsic worth as a human
being. This could be illustrated by the common admonition to treat people with simple
respect and courtesy. This character of respect was also mentioned more frequently by
Ms and DPs. A second meaning for respect that appeared to be salient was the respect of
a person's freedom and self-determination. This suggests an additional level of respect
maintained towards people's right to choose for themselves what they would like to do,
accomplish, or become. This concept was discussed by the majority of participants in all
three groups, but was most frequently discussed by the mentors.
Respect of Persons
Although all three groups of participants made references to the need for a
fundamental respect of the other in the relationship, DPs repeatedly emphasized the lack
of basic respect as a centrally important feature in their dissatisfaction with their
mentoring relationships. One DP placed basic respect at the top of her list of what she
wished she could have received from her mentor. She stated that although mentors
expected to be treated with respect, they often did not treat proteges or students with
respect. Sometimes this emphasis on the lack of respect became quite emphatic, as
illustrated by the following example.
Interviewer: Why would he introduce you to people and brag about you?
DP3: Oh, because it reflects on him. That's what a graduate advisor is for, isn't it?
"Look, I have this. . .scholar who wants to work with me! I'm a cool person!"
And that's fine. I mean I totally understand that they're under a lot of pressure.
They have things they need. A grad student is cheap labor for them, who you
want to keep working for you as long as you can, because then they leave and you
have to train somebody new. I totally understand that it has to be a relationship
where they're getting something as well as you getting something. But it has to be
somewhat equal. I mean, both people do have to get something out of it. I mean,
there are rules in this relationship. . .
Interviewer: What are the rules?
DP3: Well, you know, a professor wants to take on a student so that they have
glory, and their work getting done, and papers written with their names on it. . .
Proteges noted that when their mentors failed to treat them with respect, they felt
disconnected, lost interest in their work, and frequently decided that if respect was not
forthcoming, neither would it be given. As can be imagined, this can lead to further
difficulties. One protege stated that she had been "offered assistance to leave the
program." Typically these failures of respect manifested as not acknowledging or
attending to a protege's conversation; demeaning, condescending, or insulting behaviors
or comments; or failing to keep promises.
Satisfied proteges, however, mentioned basic respect only in general terms.
Having already received this kind of respect from their mentors as a function of the
quality of the relationship, it did not appear to be salient during the interview. Mentors
also tended to gloss over this form of respect perhaps because they also considered it to
be a given in the relationship. However, all four mentors stated they considered it an
honor to have been sought out by students.
The SP who was an international student described differences in cultural norms
regarding respect of persons. In her Asian culture, expectations of respect for elders or
culturally defined superiors (e.g., men, professors) are much stronger, and one never
criticizes or speaks freely with one to whom respect is due. She stated that students are
not considered to be equal to their professors. Students neither expect a mentor to stop
and talk to them, nor do students feel offended or unimportant when they do not. She
recalled being extremely and pleasantly surprised by her American mentor's openness
and willingness to engage with her in conversation at any time. She noted that although
she was not equal in status, neither did she feel inferior.
Although the consensus was that proteges a priori deserve respect, all mentors
noted its limits. As one mentor in the pharmaceutical field commented, although students
deserve respect, there are firm boundaries of acceptable behavior, especially considering
the potential health risks inherent in the field. Students are expected to take responsibility
for their education seriously and to behave as professionals.
Respect of a Person's Right to Self-Determination
The critical aspect of this theme is that a good mentoring relationship is
characterized by the mentor's focus on and commitment to facilitating the goals and
plans of the protege. The emphasis is so asymmetrical in favor of the protege that it
almost reaches the level that the needs and desires of the mentor are of little consequence.
As one mentor noted,
They are really the ones that count in the long run. . . . Yes, my goals will be
realized if they do their jobs, but it's more than that in the sense of who they are
and where they're going. It's really important.
This focus on supporting the goals of the protege was universal, and was focused
most strongly and repetitively by the mentors. In describing a mentoring relationship,
another mentor noted,
First and foremost I think it's a commitment to somebody else's career. So, when
somebody comes in and says they'd like to study — I'd like to study with you —
and I'm a lucky person in that I have marginal visibility nationally so that people
will apply to work with me. I'm lucky. I don't say I deserve that. It's an honor.
First, to have that happen. Second, it's a responsibility because to me it implies a
ton of obligation that the applicant probably doesn't realize. ... So, I have to
know what they're interested in. I have to know what they want to do. My
favorite question to people is "Tell me what your life looks like 5 years from
now." Once we know that, then we craft the next 5 years or plan for the next 2 or
3 years to get you there.
Mentors stated their belief that all students are unique and that the central task of
a mentor is to uncover the natural talent of the individual student, to nurture their native
excellence and passion. Mentors repeatedly noted that it is not their task to determine
what a protege should be doing with her or his life or career; rather the mentor's task is to
support the growth and development of the protege in the direction the protege has
chosen. As M3 indicated, the goal is to develop the students in regard to their own
interests and talents, not to "make mini copies of yourself." He continued,
It's a wonderfully freeing, I think, experience [for proteges] to realize that you
can pursue that for which you have talent and interest, and can mold a life around
it. ... I once heard that 98% of Americans get up in the morning, go to work and
dread that, and I can't imagine that day after day after day. This is why I think
some graduate students don't like graduate school. I would wish that 100% of
people could follow their own talents and inclinations.
Satisfied proteges also seemed to be most enamored of their mentors' focusing on
the protege's desires and goals. One of M3's proteges, SP1, was also interviewed, and
stated that "a mentor is a guide who facilitates your reaching your goals, not you reaching
their goals." He said of M3 that whatever area you were interested in as a M3's protege —
academics, practice, research — M3 would "provide you with as many opportunities and
as much guidance as you need or want." SP1 noted that he feels empowered and excited
by this kind of support because he believes he will be successful in the area he has
There are limits and qualifications to this support, however, as is indicated in the
following exchange with M2.
M2: I've tried to find what they're interested in. And I try to give them that a little
bit. . . .
Interviewer: So, it would be kind of like finding out what the individual student's
interests or passions are and then trying to feed that, to facilitate that?
M2: As best I can! Now, I can't just let them totally run my program, but I'm
more than willing to. . . I mean, I have enough flexibility in my program that I can
try to meet their particular needs, once I'm sure there's a passion for it. . . .
M3 concurred, stating, "I just can't supervise any old thing that they come up
with. ..." Ml noted that if he doesn't know the area that a student wants to pursue, or the
student declines to take his advice or recommendations, then he can't do all the things
that he would normally do for a protege. The student must then take responsibility to find
ways to make up the lack.
Feeling Valued by or Important to the Mentor
Feeling valued by or important to the mentor is closely aligned with respect.
However, feeling valued can be distinguished from basic respect in that basic respect is a
priori and due all people. Value and importance, on the other hand, refer to the particular
person. Although a mentor may fundamentally respect all graduate students, a mentor
should hold a special value for his or her proteges. ( Should refers not to an ethical
imperative, but is an ontological indicative. I.e., a characteristic of a "good" mentoring
relationship, as described by participants in this study, is that the mentor does in fact
value the protege).
The salient factor here is that the protege feels that her or his unique identity is
being validated in the relationship with their mentor. The protege is not merely another
unit (interchangeable with any other unit) in a long series of onerous obligations with
which a faculty member is tasked by the nature of the job, nor is the protege merely a
means to the mentor's ends; rather the mentor actually has an interest in this particular
person. This interest manifests in demonstrable, tangible ways that are observable by the
protege, and that she or he can internalize as self-worth and value. In this case, the
protege could say, "If this important, high status person thinks I'm important, then maybe
Participants experienced feeling valued by the practical demonstrations of their
mentors' (a) availability and (b) time and effort. Through these two modes the protege
became aware of the mentor's feelings about her or him; proteges' also construed these as
signals of the positive or negative quality of the relationship and of the self.
Availability was perhaps the most frequently noted quality in all of the data.
Mentors, satisfied proteges, and dissatisfied proteges all indicated that the mentor's
availability to proteges is sine qua non of good mentoring. Even in discussing
relationships that had little or no interpersonal components, availability was considered to
be critical. If the mentor was not available, there was, in fact, no mentor.
Availability can be understood in terms of psychological availability or physical
availability. While physical availability was mentioned numerous times, it was not
typically considered a significant factor in the quality of the relationship. All good
mentors were physically available to their proteges at some level — some spent several
hours a day with them in various contexts. What was repeatedly noted, however, was the
importance of the mentor being psychologically available. That is, graduate students felt
valued and important when their mentors responded when they were talked to, when the
response was relevant and helpful, when the mentor stopped what they were doing when
the protege wanted to talk to them about a problem (or when there was not a problem),
when the mentor was interested in the proteges concerns or needs, when the mentor was
willing to talk on the phone from home with the protege, or even if the mentor would
merely use e-mail to communicate.
In response to the opening question on how he would define good mentoring, SP3
said ". . . to be available is the most basic. To be able to be there, to be willing to be there,
to talk about your interests." M3 noted that one of the central characteristics he respected
in other good mentors he knew was "The ability to take time and listen fully to another
person's story." SP4, the student from Asia, noted that her mentor was always available
to her and that it made her feel important and valued. She further noted that her peers
with less available and open mentors were not happy, and did not feel very important to
their mentors. SP5 relayed a story that exemplifies availability and its effect on the
... He was one of the people on the committee for my paper. He was actually —
this is kinda cool — he was actually on vacation in January when I emailed him
and told him "Here's where I am, here's my outline. I've kind of revised it from
what we talked about last time." He emailed me back and said, "Actually, we're
on vacation. We're in Minnesota." He told me a little bit about the weather; it was
freezing, they were fortunate enough to arrive in the middle of a snowstorm, da da
da da da. . . and, [he continued] "You know, I like what you're doing here. Our
host actually happens to know something about the subject, and he suggests that
you check out such and such "I get this back — the guy's on vacation. . . and
he's talking about my project to his friend. . . and giving me feedback while he's
on vacation! I'm like, do I feel important? Do I feel valued? Well, yeah!
Dissatisfied proteges also had much to say about availability, or, in their case,
their mentor's unavailability. DP2 noted that she is on her second mentor/advisor;
unfortunately, the second, like the first, is not available either— physically or
psychologically. In fact, noted DP2, students have to sign up on a sheet on this
"mentor's" door to get an appointment — she dispenses her time in 15-minute
increments — whether they are an undergrad student or one of her grad students. DP2
commented that "there needs to be someone you can know that is going to answer back,
or you can touch base with, who can give you some direction, that you can talk to. . . ."
She continued that the thing that both her mentors could have done was to simply be
available. DP3 indicated that if she had a question about requirements, about classes,
about where to find the bathroom, her mentor would tell her to go ask another grad
student. According to DP3, her mentor also waxed philosophical in her presence about
whether he should be hiring technicians rather than grad students, since technicians didn't
want other things in addition to the job.
Time and Effort
Availability is a fairly passive concept, in that the mentor is being responsive to
the immediate needs of the protege. The character of time and effort as a marker of value
and importance is found in a mentor's activity or proactivity on the protege's behalf. The
mentor demonstrates her or his valuation of the protege by the concrete investment of
limited time and energy resources to the development and progress of the protege
towards her or his goals. An important aspect of this factor is that the mentoring
relationship is not defined in terms of supply and demand; although there are lots of grad
students out there, there is only one "in front of you." The protege's value to their mentor
is apparent to all, especially the protege, in the mentor's investment of time and energy.
This valuation will also be internalized and considered by the protege in their valuation of
The investment of time and effort was spoken of by the mentors mostly in terms
of the necessity of recognizing the level of commitment in these areas that is inherent in
deciding to take on grad students or proteges. All of the mentors noted this aspect of the
relationship, and expressed not only willingness, but also enthusiasm. Ml noted that he
felt that if students were going to come work with him, that he owed them his time and
effort and attention, and that he was happy to provide it. Ml 's protege, SP3, said
. . . The fact that Ml would be willing to pass back and forth the draft three times,
was something that, as I've talked with other people, they didn't have that, and
that goes back to the first thing, about being there and to be willing to give time
When asked for his definition of a good mentor, M2 said that a good mentor was
a person that's going to take the time to spend with students on a daily basis and try to
develop them to their maximum potential. . . and it takes a lot of time." Later in our
interview, in the context of a discussion of how many grad students some mentors take
on, he said,
I have other colleagues that take ten or twelve students at a time, and I just can't
do that. So I've asked myself, 'what is it that precludes me from doing that?' And
I've come to the conclusion that I spend a lot more time with individual students,
mentoring them. ... I put enough priority on trying to mentor and develop
individuals that I can only do so many at a time. . .
The other mentors reiterated this sentiment.
A partial list of other demonstrations of time and effort commitment by mentors
for their proteges reported by participants include writing a six or seven-page, single
spaced recommendation letters "in which I really tell a heartfelt story about that student"
(M3); paying for the protege's attendance at conferences, and not only helping them set
up their presentations, but staying with them during the entire display time, and
introducing them to important people that come by; going to the lab every day and
seeking them out to see how they're doing; finishing necessary paperwork on time;
always knowing what the protege is doing, and making sure that the protege is on time
and on track regarding department and degree requirements; helping them negotiate
personal concerns, such as balancing work and family, so that they can remain in the
program and focused on their work; reading materials provided by the protege in the
protege's area in order to keep up with the research in that area; and calling people to
promote the protege for a position.
As might be imagined, the conversations of the dissatisfied proteges were much
briefer in this regard. Except to note that their mentors either invested no time or effort,
or that they only invested in those areas that were of personal interest, there was little to
say. DPI noted that "when I was doing things that were not only getting me through the
program, but were also gonna help him out with his. . . in his professional life. . . ." he got
better treatment from his mentor. He described his personal relationship with his mentor
as "sterile" and leaving him with "an empty feeling." Ultimately, like other DPs, DPI
would take his work elsewhere; "I wouldn't even show it to him."
The importance of feeling safe was especially emphasized by the SPs. Mentors
and DPs also discussed the importance of the protege's feelings in this regard, but DPs
tended to withdraw from their mentors as soon as it became apparent that they weren't
safe and, as usual, the issue became one of deficiency.
In the conversations of the participants, feelings of safety seem to be related to
three primary themes: not experiencing rejection, receiving affirmation and
encouragement, and trust. These three things, when present and experienced by the
protege, establish a secure base from which they can function and develop. It is worth
noting that the concept of a secure base is derived from theories relating to attachments
between parents and their children. The participants in this study used the parent-child
metaphor frequently to express the feeling they had towards each other. In fact, all the
mentors and most of the SPs did so, but none of the dissatisfied proteges did.
For example, in response to the question "Do you like the idea of showing Ml
that you did it, that you wanted him to be proud?" SP3, who was particularly enamored of
the parenting metaphor, said
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I definitely have that second father figure feeling about it,
and it is equally as devastating when he'd you look at the first draft and really say,
'no, this is really bad, this is really not it." It was equally as devastating. I think I
definitely have that same kind of sense of. . . if he was saying "good job," then I
was feeling that I was good, and I was happy with the approval, and if he was
saying "no way. . ." that was a bad couple of days. . . .
When discussing how having a protege was like having kids, Ml said, "It's the
same way. It's the same thing." Similarly, M4 said
If you take on a student, you know you're really taking on some responsibility for
them, just like what we have for a child; you're responsible for them. It's not
quite the same level of responsibility, but they are somewhat dependent on you in
a variety of ways. . . just as much as your kids are for the skills they'll need to
survive in the world whatever they do.
Not experiencing rejection
Of the three themes that are subsumed under feelings of safety (not experiencing
rejection, receiving affirmation, and trust in the mentor), not experiencing rejection was
clearly the most important to the proteges, both emotionally and in terms of personal and
professional development. While this theme is defined negatively, as the absence of a
behavior, it remains significant in that rejection is a positive punishment. That is, if it is
experienced at all, the offended party often tends to withdraw, and the possibility of a
corrective or ameliorating positive interaction with the mentor is significantly reduced, if
not eliminated. This reduction is due not only to the reduced numbers of interactions, as
the protege tries to avoid a repeat of the aversive event, but also to the negatively biased
interpretations of any further mentor behaviors by the protege. For example, what is
meant as a helpful critique may be taken as a direct assault by a previously sensitized
protege. As a result, even a small amount of this negative behavior may preclude to
possibility of developing a positive mentoring relationship.
Examples of mentor behaviors that were experienced as rejecting or threatening
include demeaning a proteges' efforts, implying the protege is stupid or is asking stupid
questions, yelling or screaming at the protege, blaming the protege for errors, for poor
outcomes, or for not knowing what to do, taking out frustrations on the protege related to
other situations in the mentor's life, embarrassing a protege in front of others, shaming a
protege, taking a concern a protege brings and making it about themselves (e.g., a protege
presents something that she wanted help with, and the mentor tells a story about
something that happened to him, showing that he has 'suffered,' too, yet without
addressing the protege's concerns), behaving condescendingly towards the protege, and
others. Both SPs and DPs recognized the necessity of mentors' correcting them and
showing them their errors (see below), but all participants seemed to recognize the
difference between rejection and critique.
The most significant consequents to these rejecting behaviors were that the
protege withdrew from interactions with the mentor, developed questions about their own
competence and value and career choice, and became afraid to engage in the necessary
work for fear of being "slapped down," as one mentor put it. SP2, who was actually the
SP of one of the award- winning mentors (M3), noted that if a protege became defensive
at M3's strong critiques, M3 would "hammer" them, but if you accepted the critique and
asked for help, M3 would "take you under his wing." (This was definitely experienced as
rejecting and threatening, but was later resolved when the protege went to M3 and
confronted him. According to the protege, M3 has been working on that quirk since that
confrontation, and they now get along extremely well).
Many participants noted the absence of rejection and its correlates. The most
noted benefit is that proteges feel safe to take risks, not only in terms of talking to their
mentors about problems and mistakes, but also in terms of being willing and emotionally
able to explore and experiment with their work or research. For example, when asked
what her mentor did when SP2 made a mistake, she said,
SP2: Oh, it was fine. I mean, she [M4] understands that you, of course, this is a
training period, even now. I've made mistakes. . . but she doesn't go 'rooting' for
it, she's really relaxed about it.
Interviewer: what does that get for you? When you're in a situation, and you
make a mistake, and she's OK with it. . .
SP2: Well, I mean, it makes me more willing to admit that I made a mistake, and
also, it's not so much pressure. I know some mentors who are a lot more rigid
about that, and they do expect you to know, every time, exactly everything that
needs to be done. And you know, you're going to have people in the lab who are
going to be scared when you do that. I think it makes it easier for me to just go
ahead and do something, than to worry about it, if everything isn't exactly right. I
do make an effort to include everything I understand, based on my own
knowledge, to do everything correctly, but if it's not correct I don't feel like I
have to fear anything.
Receiving Affirmation and Encouragement
Receiving affirmation and encouragement from a mentor is essentially the
opposite of experiencing rejection — not opposite in the sense of the absence of one
implies the presence of the other, but in the sense that while rejection actively hinders
work and development, affirmation and encouragement promotes it. Of the three themes
under the category of feeling safe, this was mentioned directly the least but nonetheless
appeared in my coding quite often. It was my impression that there was what might be
termed an affirming atmosphere between the mentors and proteges, as evidenced by the
tone and affect of the participants during the interviews.
When affirmation was mentioned directly, however, its impact was important.
SP3 said, "I always knew I had good stuff, I had a good story to tell. What I also knew
was that I wasn't always the best at telling it. ... I always felt motivated, because Ml
was very reinforcing, [saying]; 'you've got a good thing here to talk about. . . yeah,
you're right, this is important, this is good stuff" SP5 noted that her mentor was always
very affirming or her work, even when suggesting better ways to do it or other options to
try. She said that she was never made to feel stupid or small. She continued in another
For the most part, they offered stuff [support and encouragement] so freely it was
more a matter of "I know where I can get this." I didn't have to earn it; it would
be there no matter what I did. ... It was extremely validating.
Mentors also noted the importance of providing affirmation and encouragement to
proteges. M4 discussed how encouragement softened the blows of failures and mistakes,
and cultivated the ability to keep "plugging;" M3 commented, "I'm constantly
encouraging them. . . to stretch, to try new things, to try ideas, to make mistakes, even."
The lack of affirmation and encouragement can result in proteges going elsewhere
for their needs, as was noted by DPI, who said (as if he were talking to his mentor), "[if]
I'm not going to get the feedback and encouragement from you, I'll go to one of these
other people. . . ." Regarding his mentor's lack of emotional support, when asked what
would happen to a younger protege who came and worked with this mentor (DPI was 32,
and had good support at home), he said, "Well, I've seen a lot of them, and. . . I'm the
second person who has made it out through him with a PhD."
DP3 commented that instead of commending her for what she had done, her
mentor would complain about what she hadn't done. DP2 similarly described how her
mentor would tell her to do something (without providing any clear direction), and when
she'd bring the work back to him, he would say, "Why didn't you do 'X'." She argued
that this lack of support or affirmation of her work made her not want to do any work at
all, or to ever work with him.
There are various ways to construe trust, some of which have likely been implicit
in previous sections, and others that were not discussed by participants and thus are not
presented here regardless of their assumed or likely relevance. In fact, trust was
mentioned by various participants numerous time in diverse contexts, but as a word
which tends to be used to cover a plethora of ideas, it was necessary for there to be a clear
and repeated usage for it to be construed as a theme for our purposes.
The particular conception of trust that was of concern to participants incorporated
the main theme of honest feedback. The feeling that their mentors would provide honest
feedback, and in fact were providing it, was of significant importance to proteges in that
this enabled them to know where they stood in terms of where they stood with their
mentors, as well as regarding their choice of profession and their ability to perform in that
profession. SP3 noted that even when it was unpleasant, honest feedback was indicative
of a functional relationship, rather than that was a problem with him as a person. SP2
stated that she looks to her mentor to provide honest feedback as to the quality of her
SP2: 1 trust her to point out things that I'm doing that might not be correct, or that
some other set of experiments are better. But also, I feel comfortable asking
questions; I don't feel like I'm going to be belittled for. . .
Interviewer: So you feel confident that she's not going to avoid telling you when
you're screwing up.
SP2: Oh, absolutely. She does it in a way that doesn't make you feel bad, so that's
really nice. You know, you don't feel like "Oh, I've just messed up completely
and ruined everything. . .
Interviewer: So you trust her to be honest with you.
SP2: Oh, absolutely. I mean, that's really important. . . .
One important aspect of honesty was described by two of the DPs. Both DP2 and
DP3 described how they had, prior to registering in their programs, discussed with their
mentors what they would be working on, but that after they arrived they found that the
mentors either gave them another task (DP3), or decided not to work with them (DP2). In
fact, DP3 stated that she was actively recruited by her mentor, and after she arrived found
that he would not support her graduate work at all. This lack of integrity was instrumental
on the part of both of these students to decide to not complete their PhD, and to leave
their programs with master's degrees.
Ms also noted the importance of providing honest feedback to students about their
work and progress, and indeed whether they had selected the right field. Ml noted that
his students always know where they stand with him. In response to a question as to what
drew students to him, M3 responded:
M3: Trust. I think that if you don't have trust you don't go anywhere. . . . They
need to trust our relationship and know that what I will do and say is for their
benefit. They need to trust that I'm not just a pretty boy that will just give them
positive feedback all the time - 1 will give them feedback when I think they're not
being honest with themselves, and when they're misleading themselves. I think,
paradoxically, that it's kind of the intensity of the experience that's one of the
things that draws people. . . .
Interviewer: So, in terms of trust, they have to trust you. Why is trust important in
that kind of relationship?
M3: Well, it gets them a place in their life where they can say and do virtually
anything, and I'm not going to jump down their throat. I'll give them honest
feedback that is based on what I think is for their good, and that's perhaps the
essence of trust.
Feelings of Belonging and Community
Participants often noted the importance of feeling a part of something as essential
to a good grad school experience. In this context, the mentors in particular were aware
that it is often important to facilitate this sense of belonging, to ensure that students
derive both the personal and professional benefits of being a part of an important in-
group. Mentors felt that they were in the position of gatekeepers or sponsors, and there
was a sense of the mentors saying, "come be where I am." Students enter the program as
part of the class called novice, and leave the program part of the group called doctor; it is
important that this transition include actually participating in the new class, since the title
itself will not provide a sense of belonging. Further, once the student graduates, the
groups that she or he was a part of during grad school dissipate, and need to be replaced
by the larger professional community. Ml, in defining a good mentoring relationship,
Ml: It would involve this sense of belonging, either to a scientific community at
large or to a local community in which the goals of the larger realm or community
Interviewer: So take it a step further. What does a sense of belonging. . .
Ml : I guess that you have a place in the world. It gives you a frame, it defines
your identity, and in some ways that's what graduate school is all about, it's about
defining your identity. It's something to commit to for students; they commit to
the discipline, they commit to a certain problem, to figuring it out. We're all
academics, and we define ourselves. . . a lot of our identity is defined in terms of
who we are, what we do. I think that's what's kind of attractive, in some ways,
about academic work and research, is that you get to say, "this is who I am, I'm a
Again, it was mentors who were particularly cognizant of the importance of
developing a sense of belonging or community among their proteges. They were often
very intentional in their facilitation of this experience, and provided a number of
opportunities for their proteges in this regard. For example, M4 included funding in her
grant proposals to cover her proteges' expenses to attend national conferences. At these
conferences she would ensure that they were able to not just meet but socialize with the
"names" in the field. The proteges would also be included in the lunches and dinners that
she had with other senior academicians and researchers. She noted that this not only gave
her proteges important contacts and "bragging rights," it also gave them an opportunity to
interact with high status and high powered people in a safe environment.
Other mentors were similarly intentional. M2 also took his proteges to national
conferences, as well as bringing in well-known scientists in the field to join in the weekly
lab meetings, and to present and discuss their own work in the same way as did the
proteges. The proteges also presented for the visitors. As M4, above, M2 also noted the
importance of practicing professional and interpersonal skills with high status persons in
a safe environment. Ml, in addition to taking proteges to conferences and introducing
them to colleagues and other professional, described putting his proteges' names on a
letterhead he designed for the lab, so that whenever something was sent out from any
member of the group, all their names were seen by the recipients. When asked why these
were good things to do, he responded
They're a member of. . . they belong to the discipline. It's an issue of belonging to
the discipline, they're part of the scientific community. Yes, they're a neophyte in
the scientific community, but there are scientific communities, and it's important
to belong. That's what that gesture means, aside from the networking and the
[name] recognition and so-and-so is so-and-so's student. . . all that gets processed,
but I think it's is really as you say a socialization experience.
Mentors frequently mentioned lab or research group meeting as an important
component in developing feelings of community. M2 says that his proteges present their
results, interpretations, and the their plans for the next step at these meetings, and the
other members of the group provide input and critiques. He notes that a major purpose of
the weekly meetings is to establish bonds between the students and between him and his
proteges, to develop camaraderie and belonging, as well as to help them see how other
people think, and to help them develop communication and presentation skills. He also
notes that he encourages them to mentor each other, which in addition to developing
concern for one's colleagues and community, is an opportunity to develop the skill of
Proteges focused on some of the behaviors that mentors engaged in that made
them feel that they were in a peer relationship, that they were a part of a team, that they
were a part of a community, as opposed to an isolated individual merely trying to get a
degree. Two behaviors were repeatedly discussed by proteges as providing a feeling of
belonging: First, the mentor being actively curious or getting excited about the proteges
project or results, which was construed as an indicator that the work was something that a
"real" scientist would do, and that it was worthwhile in a larger sense. Second, engaging
in banter, laughing and joking with the protege — especially inside jokes, self-deprecating
jokes, or jokes that were directed at insiders — and other "unprofessional" activity. These,
to the proteges, were clear cues that they were now a part of the in-group, as only
members of a group are allowed to "denigrate" the group (c.f, in-group use of racial
It is worth noting that although social activities were discussed by some mentors
and proteges as a way to facilitate feelings of belonging, there was no clear correlation
between nonacademic activities and good mentoring relationships. Some mentors and
proteges felt that social activities were a very important part of the relationship, while
others disagreed, citing concerns such as favoritism or loss of objectivity. One mentor
indicated that in order to avoid perceptions of impropriety he did not feel free to socialize
after hours with his female proteges, a constraint that he was not happy about.
Nonetheless, for those mentors and proteges who feel comfortable engaging in social
interactions, they appeared to contribute to proteges' perceptions of belonging.
As implied earlier, this limitation did not apply in the context of conferences.
Participation in conferences and colloquia was noted by proteges, as well, as one
especially important medium for developing a feeling of belonging. This more than any
other specifically mentioned activity represented to them that they were in fact a part of a
larger and important community. There appears to be a significant qualitative difference
between belonging to a lab group made up of grad students, and experiencing the
excitement and affirmation when participating in a professional conference. SP3 noted:
When we would go to conferences, people were really interested in what I was
doing, and again the whole time [M3] would be there. And the fact that others are
interested in what I was doing, and I could talk with them and have good
conversations about things, and the fact that [M3] was excited to be there for
those conversations as well — that was also the circle of approval of other peers
that are out there. . . .
One observation made during the interviews, not mentioned directly by
participants in the conversations, but relevant to the notion of feeling of belonging, was
the consistent use of the pronoun "we" by both SPs and Ms, but not by DPs. This seems
to indicate that at a very fundamental level a good mentoring relationship intrinsically is
one of being a part of something, even if only a dyad.
DPs also recognized the importance of belonging, but typically had to find ways
to facilitate this on their own. One DP, feeling that there was no relationship with her
mentor, established a reading group among the mentor's grad students so that they would
have an opportunity to provide each other support. DPI noted that he felt like a colleague
only when he was doing work that served his mentors needs and professional life. DPs,
far from feeling like they were a part of anything, indicated that they couldn't get anyone
to support their interests, that their committee wanted neither to meet nor to read the
proteges' work, and in one previously noted case, offered to help the student leave the
program, since she appeared to be functioning without support. Of course, only one side
of these stories is available, but regardless of the objective accuracy of these descriptions
and attributions, the experience of DPs is one of isolation and disconnection.
Feelings of Increasing Competence
If the reason that most people come to graduate school is to attain some specific
educational or personal goal, it would seem important that feeling that one was making
progress towards these goals would be a relevant factor. A commonly known feeling in
graduate school is the "imposter syndrome," in which the grad student questions whether
she or he is competent to do the work, whether she or he should be there, and in which
the student wonders when the real professionals are going to finally notice that "this
person is an imposter, not a real candidate at all!" As an anodyne to this syndrome, it is
critical that the mentor ensure that events and experiences are available for the proteges
that provide repetitive and clear cues that one is making progress toward the goal.
Indeed, proteges and mentors recognized this, and both groups of participants
noted it during the interviews. M4 noted that, as a good mentor, "it's a part of what you
want to support, I think, to help them develop. . . to believe that they can succeed, that
they can take on challenges. And they may wonder why they did it, but, you know, they
can pull it off!" M3 said that recognizing that "the mentoring relationship itself [is] a
vehicle for having progress toward various goals" is foundational, and without that
recognition, the relationship isn't going to work. SP5 noted the feeling that her mentor
was helping her progress from neophyte to peer, and was not keeping her dependent. She
also noted that since she had great respect for him, when he simply told her that she was
doing well, she believed him, and so she felt "competent and confident." SP3 seemed
inspired while describing some of these feelings:
It made me feel great! It was cool! It helped me feel like I was accomplishing
things, like I was actually passing milestones or whatever, which I think it's a
hard to feel, especially going through a doctoral program, where you keep getting
more and more work. There are those milestones that are kind of far in-between,
and it helped me feel that I was progressing, that I was going somewhere. I was
learning, I was seeing, I could start to see. ... I could visibly see myself
becoming more and more like a professor, the level I wanted to be. . . . Sometimes
it's kind of hard to feel that you're progressing, that you're going anywhere.
You're just kind of floating, a never ending "Am I going to finish this battle?"
And, yes, I felt that was something I could tangibly observe as being progress in
myself — I was moving towards the goal of finally getting my doctorate.
A number of activities appear to be relevant to helping the protege feel that she or
he is making progress. The first one (chronologically speaking) is to clarify expectations
and goals. The notion of an advance organizer is applicable here. Providing an
understanding of the program, the requirements, the tasks to be accomplished and the
relevant time frames allows student to keep ongoing track of their progress, especially
when the goals are finite and concrete. M4 notes that she tries to make students fully
aware of "what they're in for," and what is expected from them as they're progressing. At
the same time she states that it is important to "encourage them a lot, and give them a lot
of positive feedback for the successive approximations that they've made. . . ." M3 states
that students he works with are fully apprised of what he is doing and what he is
interested in. As SP1 notes, when a mentor provides to the protege a description of the
mentor's style and limits, the protege is able to more easily negotiate the relationship and
avoid tripping over things that might hinder this encouragement and positive feedback.
Following an Appropriate Developmental Course
A second factor that helps proteges experience successes and gains is when the
mentor follows an appropriate developmental course in their expectations from and
training of their protege. Giving a first year student tasks appropriate to a forth year is not
often going to end up as a success experience, but neither will continuing to give a forth
year student tasks suited to a novice let that student feel that progress is being made. SP1
states that his mentor is "continually ramping up as far as how much you can handle. . .
people who handle that, the addition of another stress, so to speak, continue on, and the
people who start stumbling, he would probably back off."
All of the mentors were fully cognizant of the developmental course of a proteges
education, and incorporated it into their expectations and goals. M2 describes how a good
mentor recognizes that new students may not know how to do science, or what
constitutes a good or bad research question, so he tries to build a program that teaches
these skills. M4 notes that it's not expected that students will have great communications
skills when they arrive, so they're taught. Ml said,
Ml : I think the developmental systems model that we use is a perfect metaphor
[for mentoring]. . . . The way you do it with advance students, and the kind of
input that you give them and the kind of feedback that you give them is very
different that the kind of feedback you give a first year, and there's sort of a
middling phase which, to me, is the hardest, because you're always having to
gauge what they know and don't know, and what's going to be salient, and what's
going to stick and what's not going to stick. . . .
Interviewer: What would happen if you guessed wrong and expected something
of them that they weren't able to give?
Ml: Well, I have to scale back.
Interviewer: What would happen to them, in terms of their. . . [development]
Ml : Oh. Well, it depends on who the student is, and if they student has fairly
good metacognitive ability. Sometimes they're pretty upset that they'd let me
down, or they're feeling that they don't measure up. Some of the students are
oblivious — none of them are when they finish, but some are oblivious on the way.
They'll get it. They'll figure it out.
A third condition, which is a derivative of the second, that provides evidence to
the protege that she or he is making progress towards the goal, is providing increasing
autonomy and responsibility. Both mentors and proteges commented on being provided
the opportunity to (and sometimes being required to) solve problems on their own, both
research and personal. M2 notes that sometimes he has to push the proteges to engage in
difficult processes, such as leading the research group or presenting, but that by doing so
he facilitates their development in a safe place. Ml says that, especially as the students
progress, he will tell them when something needs to be done, and let them figure out how
to go about doing it. Or when a decision needs to be made, he'll tell them to make it. SP2
appreciates this approach; when asked whether she wanted to be told the answers to
difficult problems, she said "No. No, absolutely not. I don't want to be told the answer; I
don't want to be told what to do. I want to have some freedom and ability to develop my
own understanding." She later continued,
In the beginning, of course, I was just learning techniques and basically doing
experiments that were assigned. Then, after a while, after I got a little bit more
involved she really let me kind of take things in my own direction. From doing
my own reading of the literature and what I understood about Alzheimer's disease
and other things, I've been able to develop my own set of experiments and my
own hypotheses, and kind of my own little project, which has been very helpful,
because or also allows me to do the kind of thinking. . . .And that's what you have
to do in the real world.
The value of increasing autonomy and responsibility is, of course, modulated by
the presence of many of the other factors discussed. This is evidenced by the nearly total
autonomy and responsibility of three of the four DPs, only two of whom are completing
their doctoral degrees. The comments of the two who are leaving with their master's
degrees were remarkable similar. For example, DP2 noted that instead of being
commended for what she had done, she was criticized for what she had failed to do. DP3
said that if she didn't have any ideas, she was told she wasn't doing the work; when she
did have ideas, she was told they were no good. The two DPs who managed to complete
their doctoral programs did recall some feelings of progress. DP4 noted that in spite of
his mentor's failure to allow virtually any autonomy, he was learning important skills and
behaviors - essentially, in spite of her efforts. DP3 felt that in the very specific areas of
writing and research he felt that he was making progress when he was with his mentor,
but in no other way (in the mentoring relationship). When asked whether he ever reached
the point in his relationship with his mentor where he said "Whatever," he replied:
I think that's a good way to look at it. . . . Yeah, I did. I can't pinpoint exactly
when that was. I think once I found myself getting though the program and doing
things, and then little things would come up. You know, I would get the kind of
feedback I was telling you about: "What are you writing this for? Why are you
doing this research?" I just decided I just didn't need to step over that boundary,
so I didn't. So I'd just go to someone else and find another avenue. By the end,
indifference was probably a good way to put it. . . .
The present study attempted to uncover those qualitative factors that, when
present in a mentoring relationship, qualify it as a good mentoring relationship. Neither
good nor mentoring were defined for participants, which allowed the relevant
characteristics to emerge from the participants' thoughts and experiences rather than be
an attempt to inform a provided construct. Furthermore, although this project was
exploratory and did not specify a strong or direct hypothesis, a central presumption was
that merely having an advisor or "mentor," merely meeting with someone and being
given some measure of advice and information, merely having a committee chair, was
not sufficient to define good mentoring. As was pointed out by various participants in this
study, students can get advice and information from almost anyone.
Covey (1998) reflected that teaching is heard, modeling is seen, but mentoring is
felt. The affective quality of mentoring was supported by the findings of this project.
During the analysis of the interview data, it became apparent that the characteristics
definitional of a good mentoring relationship, as described by the participants, were
affective in nature. As a result, how the proteges felt about what was going on in their
relationship with their mentors became the primary data of interest: What they liked or
didn't like, what they wanted, how things made them feel about themselves or their
progress or their mentors was pivotal in the qualitative differentiation between good
mentoring and bad mentoring. Indeed, it might be argued that in the absence of a positive
emotional tone, the term mentoring may be an inaccurate representation of the
It was determined that the factors most commonly reported to be related to the
qualification of a mentoring relationship could be subsumed under a single category that
was termed "positive affect." This became the core category , under which the remainder
of the results could be compiled in a hierarchical structure. This structure contains three
levels: the first or highest level is the core category, positive affect. The second level has
five categories: feeling respected, feeling valued, feeling safe, feelings of belonging, and
feelings of making progress. (Note that all category labels were selected by the
researcher, and while intended to be representative of the contents of the category, remain
matters of preference.) Some of these categories subsume third-level themes, which are
themselves derived directly form the interview data. Note that while the project
perspective ultimately focused on the perceptions of the proteges, these were, as much as
possible, connected with the mentor's actions, behaviors, and words in order to better
understand the mentor's part in the good mentoring relationship.
Feeling respected subsumes two themes: respect as a person, and respect of the
right of self-determination. Respect as a person makes reference to the simple respect and
courtesy that we all owe each other as persons. It is implicit in the nature and ethics of
social intercourse. This type of respect was of most concern to mentors and to DPs, who
considered it essential as a foundation to the relationship. Without this fundamental
respect, there are few who could, or would, maintain a relationship at any level. The
second type of respect was the respect for a person's freedom and self-determination. In a
sense supplemental to basic respect of person, this would be exemplified the additional
level of respect maintained towards people's right to choose for themselves what they
would like to do, or accomplish, or become. It was noted by all the participants that the
purpose of mentoring is to facilitate the protege's attaining their goals. This concept was
discussed by participants in all three groups, but again most frequently by the mentors.
While mentors noted the importance of creation and generativity in their own motivation
for mentoring and the work it entails, they repeatedly asserted that it was the proteges'
choices and desires that were the central consideration.
Feeling valued by or important to the mentor, the second major factor, provides
important validation of the protege's being and identity. The protege is not simply a
means to an end for the mentor, nor is she or he an extraneous and interfering aspect in
the mentors' "real" work of teaching or research. Respect and value are differentiated (in
this context) by the universality of respect and the individuality of value. All people
deserve respect, but a protege's is by definition of greater concern to their mentor than
other people, a distinction that can be seen in the mentor's actions. The protege picks up
on these cues and behaviors and internalizes the mentor's valuations, developing a
positive self-perception. Of course, DPs pick up a different valuation, and similarly
internalize it, resulting in questions of self worth or potential in their chosen field.
Two themes were found to underpin feelings of being valued or important:
availability, and time and effort. Availability was perhaps the characteristic of a good
mentoring relationship that participant's mentioned most frequently, and was explicitly
noted as an essential component - sine qua non. Availability refers not merely to physical
availability, but to psychological or emotional availability, such as is exhibited when
mentors provided elaborated responses to questions, as opposed to short and accurate but
unhelpful answers. The character of time and effort as indicative of the protege's value is
found in a mentor's level of activity or proactivity on the protege's behalf. The mentor
demonstrates her or his valuation of the protege by the concrete investment of limited
time and energy resources to the development and requirements of the protege towards
The third major characteristic indicative of a good mentoring relationship, feeling
safe, was particularly noted by SPs, but was discussed by all participants. Being in an
environment in which the protege did not experience rejection, received ongoing
encouragement and affirmation, and in which the mentor could be trusted (the three
themes underlying this category) was essential for the qualification of a mentoring
relationship as good. Not experiencing rejection was an important component in the
proteges willingness to take risks, to try new things, to admit mistakes, and to accomplish
new tasks. DPs, who experienced significant rejection reported problems with confidence
and motivation, and avoided contact with their mentors rather than experience feelings of
Obviously, DPs received little encouragement or affirmation, the second theme.
Receiving affirmation and encouragement from a mentor seems to promote motivation
and development, while rejection hinders these processes. In fact, of the three themes
making up feelings of safety, this was focused on least by all groups. It might be
hypothesized that rejection is a much more powerful form of feedback, and thus much
more salient. Rejection can have an immediate and pervasive negative impact on a
mentoring relationship, while experiences of affirmation might individually have a much
smaller impact. This also might represent a baseline affect that is slightly positive, in that
no rejection is itself a form of affirmation. Future research might look at this difference in
the reports of participants.
Despite the pervasive use of the term trust, and its consequent ambiguity, there
appeared to be a particular conception of trust reported by participants that was related
the theme of honest feedback. It was of special importance that mentors provide honest
(but not rejecting) feedback to proteges about their work, skills, competence, and
potential in the field. Protege's noted that even when it was unpleasant, it removed
significant uncertainty and stress, allowed them to make better decisions, and was
indicative of a functional relationship.
The forth category was defined by feelings of belonging and community. All
participants indicated that feeling a part of something was an important part of the
experience, and that the mentor was a primary facilitator of this feeling. In fact, mentors
were particularly cognizant of the importance of proteges' becoming a part of their
professional communities, more so than the proteges, who seemed primarily to notice
either the feeling of belonging or the absence of it. Mentors facilitated these feelings in
the way they constructed their programs and in the way they ran their research and lab
groups and meetings. They also enlarged the community by supporting proteges'
attendance at conferences, and by bringing important people in the field in to the
department to interact with the students. Mentors are also in the position of gatekeepers
to their respective professional communities, and provided references, introductions, and
other networking benefits to proteges.
The fifth and final category representing factors that contribute to the evaluation
of a relationship as a good mentoring relationship was feelings of making progress.
Graduate students often feel what is referred to as the "imposter syndrome," which
attempts to describe the doubts that they have what it takes to succeed in their field, and
that soon someone will notice and ask them to leave. This syndrome is only partially
tongue-in-cheek, as evidenced by the discussions of the participants in this study, as well
as its' not infrequent appearance in conversation and the literature.
Since most people in graduate school have an agenda, a goal, feelings that one is
making progress toward that goal will be rewarding, and thus motivating. Objective
measures of progress are often hard to come by in graduate school, and tend to be
infrequent (e.g., the masters' degree), or uninformative (e.g., grades). It is thus important
that the mentor provide ongoing success experiences and clear feedback when progress is
being made. Clarification of goals and expectations, following an appropriate
developmental course, and increasing the protege's autonomy and responsibility all
contribute to the ability of the protege to recognize their progress towards the goals.
Clarifying goals and expectations reduces the problem inherent in measuring outcomes in
any domain. It is essential to know the goal before it can be determined if it has been
reached. When the mentor takes the time to clarify their expectations of the protege, the
protege is more meaningfully able to understand the implicit goals that a mentor has, so
she or he can incorporate those into her or his processes.
Additionally, it was repeatedly reported that good mentors were aware of the
progressive nature of their protege's development, and that significant consideration was
given to ensuring that the developmental status of the student was assessed and their
unique developmental needs were matched. This allows students to experience more
successes, and to become more aware of their own development as they continue to
engage in more developmentally advanced tasks. Closely related to this is the provision
of increasing autonomy and responsibility as the protege becomes more skilled and more
able to cope with complex or advanced tasks. Proteges' noted that this was one of the
important cues that they were getting closer to their goals of becoming professionals, and
that it prepared them for entry into that world. It was a clear indicator, other things given,
that in their mentors estimation they were able to function as beginning professionals
rather than merely students.
An interesting feature of these findings is the commonality of perceptions
amongst participants as to the characteristics of a good mentoring relationship. This
bodes well for the generalizability of these results, a possible limitation of this project.
While there were certainly individual variations in emphasis and focus, the majority of
these characteristics were discussed at some level by virtually all of the participants. For
example, one mentor discussed belonging much more than the others, another focused on
trust, and all four used — but two were particularly enamored of — parenting and
attachment as metaphors for the mentoring relationship, as were five or six of the
proteges. Also significant was that the dissatisfied proteges often confirmed the
importance of these factors by explicitly noting their absence. Of course, factors that
found little common support as important for good mentoring were not construed as
central, and were not selected for inclusion. For example, financial support was noted,
but it was not represented as important to the quality of the relationship.
Another factor discussed, but not included as a factor was non-academic social
interactions (drinks after work, social meals, games and sports). Based on general
readings of the literature, it was expected that social interactions outside the academy
would play a larger role in the minds of mentors and proteges in their definitions of a
good mentoring relationship. The data do not support this expectation. Although a
number of the participants indicated that they engaged in regular social activities, such as
going out after hours, or having proteges to their houses not infrequently, some mentors
and proteges indicated that this was not a factor, that they preferred not to engage in this
level of social intimacy, and that it in fact might prove an obstacle to maintaining
objectivity when difficult evaluations were needed. Insofar as the mentors and proteges
were matched with each other in terms of their preferences in this area (as far as could be
determined by the particular sample in the project), it seems likely that this is an
individual difference factor, and not a factor related generally to good mentoring
Another finding that was unexpected was that whether the mentor was actively
engaged in research or not was not invariably related to good mentoring in the context of
doctoral students. It was expected that in the context of mentoring graduate students,
mentors would need to be active in research, if for no other reason than to provide good
role modeling in that domain. Although most participants indeed felt that it was critical
that the mentor be actively engaged in research, and that they obtained significant benefit
by observing their mentors in that role, this was not unanimous. In fact, one of the
mentors, who had recently received a national award from graduate students for his
mentoring, was not engaged in any research at all. Possible explanatory factors include
that this mentor has a highly active and productive research lab that he oversees but his
graduate students run, that he has done extensive research in the past, and that he
continues to be a prolific writer in the field. It was noted by one protege that whether they
were actively engaged in research was less relevant than whether they had been. Further
research to determine the parameters of this variable would be valuable in determining
important mentor characteristics.
The findings of this research are consistent with much of the previous work on
mentoring. For example, general support was found for phases in the mentoring
relationship as described by Phillips (1982), Missirian (1982), and Kram (1983).
Although specific stages were not differentiated in this analysis, the participants did note
the central importance of being aware of and adhering to a clear developmental course,
and especially of the mentor's engaging in an ongoing (if informal) assessment of the
protege's progress along this path. Participants also noted the developmental course of
the mentoring relationship itself, describing "stages" quite similar to those in the
literature. Discussions of the participants also were consistent with researchers
perceptions of a vast diversity of mentoring functions, though not Pollock's (1995) 144.
High quality mentors once again were represented as truly amazing people, who have
cared for and nurtured proteges as their own children.
There are a number of factors that may represent limitations to this study. First,
there was only one coder of the interview data; the author performed all coding and
analysis tasks himself. Although this is not uncommon in this type of research (Dick,
2002; Kram, 1985), it must be noted that this will introduce the likelihood of a subjective
bias. As Kram (1985) noted, "data collection and data analysis can not be separated in
exploratory qualitative research" (p. 215). Ongoing analysis of the data by the researcher
is an integral part of the process of gathering additional data; it does not occur only at the
conclusion of a data collection stage. Indeed, the researcher is construed as a primary tool
in the analysis.
In grounded theory, it is asserted that avoidance of this bias this is not entirely
feasible (nor even necessarily desirable, given the presumed developed expertise of the
analyst). The presence of bias is dealt with by first making the researcher's biases as far
as possible explicit, and then by accepting the limitations on the researcher's ability to
make unbiased "truth" claims about the findings. It is left to the consumer of the research
to determine for her or himself whether the researcher is credible and her or his
conclusions are plausible. Grounded theory, however, makes no assertion that the
particular conclusions of the researcher's analysis are the only plausible conclusions;
other researchers might well come to different conclusions, or find different factors more
compelling. This does not impact the value of the present research for structuring the data
or developing substantive theoretical models (Glaser & Strauss, 1970; Rennie & Brewer,
Researchers using the grounded theory methodology consider the concerns about
researcher bias to be significantly outweighed by the complementary benefit; that is, that
the qualitative method "is often the most adequate and efficient method for obtaining the
type of information desired" (Glaser & Strauss, 1970; c.f, Giorgi, 1992). The use of the
grounded theory method is perhaps the most notable strength of this project. This
methodology has been used numerous times in the mentoring literature, not the least
important of which was Kram's original and seminal work (Kram, 1983, 1985). It has
also been used to explore the mentoring experiences of GLB graduate students (Niolon,
1997). Thus, the limitation due to subjectivity is induced by the specific strength of the
project, that of being able to distil out the subjective factors definitional of the quality of
A second potential qualification is that of limitations on generalizability. The
sample consisted of ongoing or recently graduated doctoral students (or, in the case of
two of the dissatisfied proteges, students who decided to leave their programs after
obtaining a master's degree), and graduate school faculty mentors. In addition, the
number of fields and departments sampled was necessarily limited, though efforts were
made to include some diversity. Strictly speaking, the findings should be limited to these
populations. Further research with samples form other fields or departments, and from
business settings should be carried out to strengthen the generalizability of the findings.
A final factor to note is that no effort was made to account for or control for
personality or other characteristics that the mentors or the proteges brought to the
relationship. This was noted previously as being a strong potential confound for much of
the mentoring research (e.g., Green & Bauer, 1995; Lovitts, 2001; Turban & Dougherty,
1994). While the research on prior factor's contributions to mentoring outcomes is an
important consideration, and would seem likely to play a part in a mentor's or a protege's
qualification as a relationship as good, this is not construed specifically as a limitation.
The present research was descriptive of affective conditions and behaviors within the
relationship, not of the characteristics of the mentor or the protege, per se.
This research provided an embarrassment of riches. Like a net with a small mesh,
far more data than is immediately usable was gathered. However, one of the design
parameters of the method of analysis used is that the researchers seek to uncover and
develop only one core category in any given project (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). Thus,
while there is sufficient data to develop other projects if desired, it is argued that
inductive focus is lost if all possible categories are sought and elaborated.
Aside from research replicating these results, two areas in particular that would be
fruitful for future research include an exploration of the applicability of attachment theory
to the mentoring relationship, and developing a training model with which to disseminate
these findings. The prevalence of the parenting metaphor, as well as the ease with which
many of the central factors uncovered can be mapped onto the attachment model present
tantalizing clues that the extensive literature on child attachment processes could be
mined for use in understanding and developing the mentoring relationship.
Second, exploring whether the findings of this project can be developed into a
training program for mentors and proteges would be valuable. Many of the categories
delineated here are closely tied to definable mentor behaviors. These could be more
clearly operationalized and disseminated to mentors and proteges, and qualitative as well
as quantitative outcomes could be measured. If the quality of the relationship is strongly
associated with both subjective and objective outcomes (Lovitts, 2001), these findings
may provide a way to improve these outcomes.
The unique contribution of this study is the uncovering of specific affective
components critical to a positive evaluation of the mentoring relationship. No previous
study was found that specifically focused on these factors. Given the opportunity to
elaborate those factors they believed to be central to good mentoring, participants focused
on affective components, not rational, concrete, technical factors. These other important
factors were neither ignored nor minimized; rather, it was noted that these things could be
obtained even from a poor mentor, or another person entirely.
The centrality of affect to differentiating mentoring from other, possibly very
productive relationships, may also help explain the difficulty that has been ubiquitous in
defining mentoring. This research implies that mentoring is not a concrete construct that
can adequately be represented by functions and phases and outcomes; it is a human
relationship with fuzzy boundaries derived largely from affective rather than cognitive
factors. Whether or not the satisfied proteges in this study will ultimately receive more
money or more promotions, they will likely continue to assert that they were well
mentored, and that their mentors were and are important people in their lives. It is hoped
that these findings will provide mentors and proteges, and others concerned with these
relationships, some guidance in developing what all hope to experience — a good
Protocol Title: Mentoring
Please read this document carefully before you decide to participate in this study.
Purpose of this research study:
The purpose of this study is to look for psychological factors in the mentoring process
that facilitate the success of the relationship.
What you will be asked to do in this study:
You will be interviewed by the primary researcher in a mutually agreed upon private
milieu. You will be asked a number of open-ended questions regarding your experiences
with and perceptions of mentoring and the mentoring relationship. These questions will
serve as an introduction to discussion, and will be followed by an unstructured dialogue
between the researcher and yourself. This discussion will be audio taped for later
transcription to hard copy.
It is expected that the interview will last approximately 1 hour.
Risks, benefits, and compensation:
There are no anticipated risks associated with this study, nor are you expected to derive
any direct benefits. There is no compensation for your participation.
Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. No identifying
information will be requested while audiotaping is in progress, nor will any identifying
information be included in the transcripts. The tapes and transcripts will be labeled using
a code number, which will be kept separately from a master list. Transcription will be
carried out by the primary researcher or a supervised research assistant. The audiotapes
and the transcripts from the tapes will remain at all times in the care and control of the
primary researcher. When the project is complete, the audiotapes will be erased and the
master list destroyed. The transcripts will remain in the care and custody of the primary
researcher. Your name will not be used in any report.
Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not
participating. You may decline to answer any question.
Right to withdraw from the study:
You have the right to withdraw from the study at any time without consequence.
Whom to contact if you have
questions about the study:
Mark Brechtel, MS
Department of Psychology
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, 3261 1-2250
Franz Epting, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, 3261 1-2250
352-392-0601 ext. 256
Whom to contact if you have
in the study:
questions about your rights as a research participant
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL, 3261 1-2250
I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the
procedure and I have received a copy of this description.
KU ADDENDUM TO UF PROTOCOL # 2002-551
TITLE OF PROTOCOL: MENTORING
In keeping with the University of Kansas's interest in protecting the rights and welfare of
research participants, this addendum provides additional local contact information for the
principal investigator and the University of Kansas faculty sponsor. If you have any
questions about the project, please contact:
Mark F. Brechtel, MS
Counseling and Psychological Services
2100 Watkins Health Center
University of Kansas
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
Francis J. DeSalvo, PhD, LSCSW
Counseling and Psychological Services
2100 Watkins Health Center
University of Kansas
If you have any questions about your rights as a research participant, please
Human Subjects Committee - Lawrence (HSCL)
University of Kansas
241 Youngberg Hall
2385 Irving Hill Road
Lawrence, Kansas 66045-7563
I have received a copy of this addendum, which provides local contact information
regarding the indicted protocol.
MENTOR INTERVIEW SAMPLE
MARK: (continuing) so tell me . . . let's go ahead and start talking about mentoring. Just
a global question: What do you think represents an effective mentoring relationship, and
obviously this is going to take more than 25 words.
Ml: First and foremost I think its commitment to somebody else's career. So, when
somebody comes in and says they'd like to study. ... I'd like to work with you — and I'm
a lucky person in that I have marginal visibility nationally, so the people will apply to
work with me. I'm lucky, I don't say deserve that. It's an honor, first, to have that happen,
and second, it's a responsibility, because to me it implies a ton of obligation that the
applicant probably doesn't realize. I have put out for them. I have to look out for their
career interests. I have to look out for their mental health to some degree, and in many
cases I feel responsible for their being able to have meat and potatoes. I have to try my
damnedest to try and support them financially in a way that makes them comfortable but
not too comfortable and to get them through. So, it's really a commitment to all three of
those areas I think, and there's probably more that I'll think of as we go on today, but at
minimum it's those things. So, I have to know what they are interested in, I have to know
what they wanted to. . . my favorite questioned to people is "tell me what your life looks
like five years from now," and once we know that then we craft the next five years or
plan for the next 2-3 years to get you there. So . . .
MARK: So you're real intentional about this. You don't just wait for somebody come in
and . . .
Ml: No. If you wait . . . usually people don't come in chat until there's a problem, and by
then who knows what. . .
MARK: Do you have a schedule; get to meet with them on a regular basis?
Ml: I have a team ... I have found in the past . . .see, I have to now segregate my career
into before associate dean and after. Before taking this administrative post, I was in the
lab constantly, which... I'm not sure how my students liked that or not (laughing). . . but I
was there constantly and I was in my office constantly. . .my door was always open. So,
we got our last NIH grant in '98, and I said that "we should have regular staff meetings"
and they said, "For what? We don't have to have this, you're always around." So, that's
how that's happened. Now, what I do now is a little different, because — this is going to
screw up your study — what I do now is check in with them, because I'm not available on
a regular basis. I should say . . . they're still welcome to walk through the door; it's just
that I'm physically removed from the premises. So, they're still welcome. I feel like I
have to check in with them occasionally, but they're still welcome to check in with me.
E-mail's good for that. They can call me, but they know that e-mail's better. And they're
not shy about asking for time, and I still give them top priority. If they need to get in to
see me, that's still my top priority, for them to come in and.. . . We don't really have
meetings, staff meetings, because . . . what I found that happens during staff meetings is
we do get to iron out things, but right now I have my post-doc who can handle a lot of the
ironing out. And the other thing is that I like them to work together as a team, to work out
their own schedules. I don't like to set . . .1 know we have three lab sites, we have
different projects going on in the labs, at different times, and ... I know some people
who structure their students time — you have to be here at this time, you have to be there
at that time — I basically let them make their own schedules, and I just say "here's what
has to be done, and you guys figure out how to go about getting a done." So, I found that
at meetings, at regular staff meetings, people come up to me and say, "Who's going to
make that decision." And I'd say, you guys deal with that, I'm not going to do . . .
MARK: How is that different from before, when you were always there? Was it the
same thing then?
Ml: It was basically the same thing then. I took a little bit of a more ... I can tell you
that I was far more proactive in getting issues out and dealing with them that I am now,
but I'm pretty confident now that my post-doc can keep a handle on that. She'll say, I'm
not sure to bother you with this, normally I'd handle it myself, but this is something that I
need you to do.
MARK: So your post-doc, then, when she has problem, how does that look, in terms of
Ml: I say, "What's the problem." She says, "Here's the problem." We look at the
parameters, who's affected, what needs to be done, who needs to do it, and if it is
something that I have to do I'll pick up the phone or take some action to change it. Or for
something that she can do, I'll say that here's what I think you should do, does that sound
OK to you?
MARK: she is being mentored . . . and, of course, you're right, it is a little different . . .
Ml: It's not all that different.
MARK: OK. But I'm trying to figure out, what is she getting out of this? Is she getting
out of this what she needs to get out of this?
Ml: She, in effect, is now getting training as a lab head, and she's getting training in
supervising grad students. So, she's getting that kind of experience that is going to be
valuable in the long run.
MARK: Let's try a different one. Let's say you're back in your lab, and your door's
always open, and you're pretty much always there. What is different about the way you
did things, than the way, say, somebody else who was always there with their door
always open, but wasn't well liked as a mentor. What were you doing, what were you
giving them that was different . . .?
Ml: Well, I have to make the other person up, because . . . there's got to be more than
one other person, because other people do different things . . .
MARK: Well, we can just eliminate the other person. What you think that you were
giving them that was making it work for them?
Ml: I think first and foremost that I was giving them advice or direction that was
consistent with them actually getting what they wanted in terms of career; in that it made
them competitive nationally for positions. Or, if they didn't want a nationally competitive
position it made them competitive for whatever it was that they wanted to do. The second
thing was I think my students feel supported by me. I've never asked them that question
directly, but I think that they feel, again, primarily ... I can sense some grumblings now
that I'm not on the premises, but I think they felt that I was interested in supporting them
on a number of different levels. For example, if they came to me and asked me for
something, I tried my best to get to them. But also. . .1 guess one of the things that struck
me is that it was actually pretty rare for, I found out recently, it was rare for graduate
advisers to invite students to their homes for dinner, or go out there with them, or to
throw Christmas party at your house and buy them presents, even if it's a book that has to
do with the field. It doesn't happen! I was just aghast that that didn't happen! I do all those
things, and I thought that — not that my adviser did that for me, but I thought that the
students came all this way to work with me, or work on the same kinds of problems that
we were working on, that I owed it to them. Happily, but I owed to them in the larger
MARK: So, if you were to think like a psychologist ... I'm a student, and I come work
for you, and you say, "We're having a dinner. All the students are getting together and
going out for dinner." How does that make me feel? See, because what I'm trying to
understand is what's going on within the person, almost like I can take an attachment
model, or I can take a developmental model .... Psychologically speaking, what is a
student getting from a good mentor?
Ml: I think that the message that they are getting is that I care about them as a person.
It's trite, but I think that's it. They're not just someone who works for me, even though I
pay them, they're not just somebody who represents my ego extended, because really I
want them to get to do whatever it is that they want to do. I don't . . . some advisers get
really upset that their students don't go onto research one institutions. I've had students
that go onto research one institutions, and I've had students who have quit to work in
industry, and both are fine as far as I'm concerned because they get what they want, and
the degree to which we prepared them for any of those positions is positive.
MARK: So what happens to those students, not necessarily the students that you've had,
but students working with somebody who doesn't have that focus?
Ml: I've think that they're generally regarded not worth the time, so they get less quality
time, possibly less time overall, and certainly not the quality of attention or feedback that
a student having a little higher. . . or aiming for the prototypical research job may get.
MARK: What is that?
Ml: That's the whistle. Classes are over. It happens 20 after and 10 until.
MARK: Every hour?
MARK: How come I only hear it about three times a day?
Ml: I don't know. Where's your office?
MARK: I'm down at Watkins.
Ml: OK, so you won't hear it down the hill so much. It's a real trip to be next to it what
MARK: Really! So, a student is feeling that he's valued . . .
Ml: Yes, I think that's right. I should say that one of the things I have, I model for
graduate training is a junior colleague model. It's different from an apprentice model, or a
kingdom model. In a junior colleague model I accept them and I'm obligated to treat them
as I would a junior colleague, and not a grad student, whatever that is . . . they're involved
in as much ... I try to involve them in as many tasks as I can that I do so they can see
what it's like to do that, in the hope that eventually they'll deal to do it on their own, either
here, so I can now actually delegate that level of work to them eventually, and also so
that they I can, I guess, so they can do it wherever they end up. Within that model, the
way I go about doing it is, I use a hierarchical lab set up where the most senior grad
student is the one that I will often say, OK, so and so knows how to do this so go talk to
them. So, depending on when you came, there's sort of an inherent hierarchy where the
people who know the most are often the dispensers of information. The other issue is
making sure that those relationships are OK — that's also something I was never trained to
expect to have to do, or to do. You want to make sure that those relationships are OK,
because when they're not it wreaks havoc.
MARK: How do you go about doing that?
Ml: When there are conflicts, and they're relatively rare, we treat them as problem
solving sessions. We bring people in — not together — and say "what did so and so say?"
Well, here's why so-and-so might have said that. Or, sometimes I'll get — it's important to
get both sides of the story, and if I come to the decision that so-and-so's wrong, I'll just
ask them and say, well, that shouldn't happen again. And they'll say that to the student,
eventually. It's all got to be handled, in an interpersonally sensitive way; otherwise it all
goes to hell.
MARK: What about socialization experiences? Do you introduce them to valuable
people . . . ?
Ml: Yeah, I do to the extent that I can. I don't do it right now. For a while I put their
names on ... I created a lab letterhead and I put all their names on the letterhead, so any
correspondence that went out people got to see their names. Not that they'd take notice of
those names, but later on psychologist might say, "Where have I seen this name before."
That might happen, so that was pretty intentional. But I do introduce them to colleagues
and conferences, I make sure that they get . . . it is appropriate to make sure that they get
to talk about what they're doing; I spread their names around when I can.
MARK: What do they get out of it, psychologically?
Ml: Well, obviously they're being . . . okay, psychologically . . .
MARK: Again, I'm trying to get behind it, not just what you do, but why is a good thing.
Ml: They're a member of . . . they belong to the discipline. It's an issue of belonging to
the discipline. They're a part of the scientific community. Yes, they're a neophyte in the
scientific community, but there are scientific communities, and it's important to belong.
That's what that gesture means, aside from the networking and the recognition and so-
and-so is so-and-so's student . . . that all gets processed, but I think it is really as you say
a socialization experience.
MARK: Do you think they get the same kind of thing from the structure, the informal
structure in a lab's, where they have a hierarchy, a friendly hierarchy as you call it ... ?
Ml: Yeah. I think that it's a community, on a smaller scale, of course but, yeah.
MARK: You're developmental, and I'm not sure exactly what aspect . . . your focus
seems to be on neuroscience, but if you had to ... if you were to pick a developmental
model that might subsume mentoring, would you be able to . . .
Ml: I think the developmental systems model that we use is a perfect metaphor. I hate to
be somebody who's "I've got a hammer and everything is a nail," but . . . well, sometimes
(laughter) . . . but, it really does work. The way you do it with advanced students is, and
the kind of input that you give them and the kind of feedback that you give them is very
different than the kind of feedback you give a first-year. And there's sort of a middling
phase which, to me, is the hardest, because you're always having to gauge what they
know and don't know, and what's going to salient and what's going to stick and what's not
going to stick.
MARK: What would happen if you guessed wrong and expected from them something
that they weren't able to give?
Ml: Well, I have to scale back.
MARK: What would happen to them, in terms of their . . .
Ml: Oh. Well, it depends on who the student is, and if the student has fairly good
metacognitive ability. Sometimes they're pretty upset that they'd let me down or they're
feeling that they don't measure up. Some students are oblivious. . . none of them are when
they finish, but some are oblivious on the way. They'll get it, they'll figure it out.
MARK: Do you ever ... do you have any female graduate students?
Ml: They're all females. I've had two male students, no, sorry, 3 male students.
Psychology is increasingly becoming feminized, to the point where clinical psychology
programs are being asked "what are you doing now to actively recruit men into the
program?" I work in developmental, which has kids and babies, and it seems to naturally
attract women to the study, and so I've had one male student who's gone on to a position,
another student who's worked, who wasn't technically my student but I let them work in
the lab and do his dissertation there — I basically guided his dissertation. He went off to
the school of education (garbled) chair. . . and currently I have another male student
who's going to be finished . . .
MARK: Actually, that's interesting, because I was going to ask a question about your
dinners and Christmas evenings and social gatherings, if having female students was
different from having male students.
Ml: You know, I haven't . . . I've found male and female students to be equally sensitive,
although in slightly different ways, in terms of how they take feedback and in terms of
how they respond to things. I have a box of tissues always around, just in case. I just had
a conversation today about students getting emotional, and is it that my experience that
women will get more emotional than men under stress. But men are just a sensitive, they
just show it in different ways, respond in different ways. If you're talking about
relationships and that sort of thing, it's very safe for them. I'm married, I have two kids,
and a dog. . . I have a very stable family life, so it's not an issue, not even close.
MARK: Because it is actually, has been brought up in the literature . . . getting too close
to female protegees
Ml: Yeah, it's been brought up, there's a bunch of books on it, including exposes and
what have you . . .
MARK: So, you haven't had a problem with that?
Ml: No . . . I'm old now (laughing)
MARK: So, you have two kids? How old are they?
Ml: Five and seven.
MARK: Actually, kids are why I got into psychology. My wife and I were foster parents
for a longtime. My very first paper as a grad student was on developmental neuroscience.
It still has some degree of fascination, although I haven't had much time to pursue it.
Ml: Yeah, it's moving pretty fast. One thing I do notice that you do have to, initially, is
kind of convince female students that they don't have to worry about that part of the
relationship. When they come in, you can always see that there's a little bit of hesitancy
in that, and that it's something that they're kind of thinking about, to protect themselves
against After our first few meetings, it's not an issue anymore. But there is that. With
men that's obviously not an issue.
MARK: Are the students, generally, when you take them on, uncertain about what it's
supposed to be like.
Ml: Yeah, they're pretty clueless. Some of them . . . they're not sure how to act, and what
can be like, so that's why it's important to present yourself as a real person, and . . . some
of them I'm pretty . . . actually, none of my students are formal with me. Today I had a
student switch over and say she wanted to work with me, and I said fine; she still calls me
Dr. and whatever ... I hate that, but I won't instruct her to do otherwise until she feels
comfortable doing that; it might be taken as a rebuke, or something like that.
MARK: Do you think that you provide the atmosphere or safe base where they can . . .
Ml: Yeah, I think that they always feel that they know where they stand with me, and in
that . . . we're talking about successful students, because I have had unsuccessful students,
I'm assuming that we'll get to those eventually to ... but I do think that they feel that I'm
interested in them as a whole person, that they do feel safe with this as somebody who
can take care of a lot of different things. They tell me when. . . they tell me "I haven't been
doing well lately, and here's why, Yeah, I know I haven't, I've been cut out of it lately,
I've been struggling, I've really feel depressed lately about this or that." And so they seem
to be fairly comfortable. I can't say all of them, but the sense I have is that they feel like
they can tell me that kind of stuff.
SATISFIED PROTEGE (SP) INTERVIEW SAMPLE
MARK: As my e-mails said, this is a dissertation project about mentoring, and obviously
I got your name from Ml . What I'm doing is I'm trying to figure out what is good
mentoring. Ml for example, received an award for mentoring. Why did Ml receive an
award for mentoring? It's more basically at a psychological level; it's not how many times
you meet, although that's a part of it. It's not real core stuff like that he may answer your
questions. Why does meeting with him work? What is it about meeting with him? What
are you getting out of it? What are you feeling? Why is that good for you? So, as we talk
I think we'll probably just kind of beat around the bush about certain things, so that
doesn't matter. ... So, basically, I'll start with the question; how would you define good
mentoring? How would you define a mentoring relationship?
SP3: hum. . . to define good mentoring. . . .
MARK: And you don't have to get it right.
SP3: Yeah. I was going to say, that's a tough one.
MARK: This is exploratory. . . obviously I'm not trying to defend a hypothesis here; I'm
trying to find out what people think, so don't even think about trying to get it right. Just
whatever comes to mind, because as we talk for the next little while, more things will
come to mind.
SP3: Right. Well, I think probably. . . one, to be available is the most basic. . . to be able
to be there, willing to met with you, and to talk about your interests. But beyond that is to
be a motivator, to help you one way or another. . . to help you be excited about what
you're working on. To help you see the benefit, or the momentum of what you're gaining
as you're working on something. Benefit in the sense that they point out to you and help
you see that you're actually contributing something, you're showing your. . . . You know,
with [Ml], he got excited. [Ml] got excited when we would look at my data, and he
would say, "Nobody else knows this! That's cool!" And that made an impression on me.
It got me motivated to continue through the process rather than fading out, which
happens to a lot of people.
MARK: What is it about being excited that's motivating? Nobody else knows a piece of
information, you know the piece of information, why is that important?
SP3: 1 don't know. I just had somebody in here the other day, and we were going through
some data, and we were supposed to go to lunch. It was 2:00 then, and I was kind of like,
"we've been in here a long time, we better go to lunch." I just really love it; I love mining
through the data. And so to have somebody else be excited about that, and to think you
are actually contributing something new to. . . that, to me is. ... I don't know why,
actually. . . .
MARK: To have somebody else, is there, camaraderie?
SP3: Yeah, I think that. I think also to be that guiding. . . . You know sometimes there are
things there that you don't see, so to be willing to sit there with you and go through the
information. I would come to [Ml] and say, "Hey look what I saw, and what I found, this
is what I see in here," and that's kind of cool, and he would come from a completely
angle, "well have you looked at this?" Rather than just tell me to go off and look at that,
he would say, "do you have your data with you?" And if I did, then he'd sit down and we
would both sit there, and miss lunch, and play with the data. It was that kind of
interaction, that at least for me, was a real Godsend.
MARK: How did that make you feel, when you do that, you go through your data, and
he says, lets look at it?
SP3: It made me feel great! It was cool! It helped me feel like I was accomplishing
things, like I was actually passing milestones or whatever. Which, I think it's hard to feel,
especially going through a doctoral program, where keep getting more work and more
work and more work. There are those milestones, but they're kind of far. . . few and far
between. And so it helped me feel that I was progressing; that I was gaining something. I
was learning, I was seeing. . . I could start to see that I was bringing better questions, and
I was already anticipating what he was going to say. So the next time I came in and said,
"Hey, look what I found, this is really cool," and he would say," Well did you do that, did
you look at this?" and I would say, "Yeah, I did," and he would still have something else,
but we could kind of. . .
MARK: What does it feel like when you have anticipated?
SP3: Again, I felt like I was accomplishing something. I felt like I could visibly see
myself becoming more and more like a professor, like the level I wanted to be, the
MARK: So you are accomplishing something towards your own development?
MARK: OK. Because I was wondering if you were thinking in terms of accomplishing
something in society or something. . . .
SP3: Nah (laughing). That's what I'm. . . ultimately, to disseminate that information, but
no, I felt I was gaining for myself.
MARK: You were learning, you were getting better, you were getting smarter, you were
actually getting something out of it.
SP3: Right, and could see that. Like I said, it just seems that the milestones are so few
and far between. Sometimes it's really hard to feel that you're progressing or going
anywhere. You're just kind of floating in this never ending "am I ever going to finish"
battle, and yeah, I felt like that was something I could tangibly observe as being progress
in myself. That I could move towards the goal that I wanted to, of finally getting my
MARK: Did you. . . when you had those situations where you predict ahead of time what
he's going to say and you get it right, how does that make you feel?
SP3: Again, that feels good. It felt like I was. . . like I knew that that was coming
And just thinking ahead about. . . like with my writing, being able to try and anticipate
what reviewers might come back with. That was kind of my thinking about that, was can
I anticipate what to somebody else, who's a little more experienced in the field, what are
they going to ask when I say x, z, y? What's the other piece that they're going ask about?
To be able to anticipate that Again, for me. . . I didn't actually come in to this field, I
don't know if anybody does, in any kind of normal sense, it was not like I always wanted
to do this. I kind of stumbled into psychology, and stumbled into [Ml], too. So, for me I
was always looking to reaffirm I was in the right place. I was at originally an English
major, and I was interested in starting in children's books as a genera of literature, and I
just assumed somebody out there had done the research on what you should read to your
kids. And, so, that was my senior year as an undergrad, and I started actually doing some
research working with somebody in the English department. She said, "yeah, just go look
that up and see what books are good, and that might be a good starting place for you." I
didn't find any research, and really didn't find much about anybody really defining
whether some books are better for kids or how do you define that?
MARK: In terms of language acquisition, or were you at that stage yet?
SP3: 1 wasn't at that stage quite yet. I had it in mind that one thing children were gaining
from it was language. But I was also looking for anything about, you know. . . including
images, whether or not some children seem to like. . . or whether you could classify it at
all that way. I figured at least for a least from the language points of view, you weren't
reading Moby Dick to three-year-old, they weren't that interested in. . . they prefer
cartoons or what ever. So that was kind of my. . . so, I kind of suddenly changed gears
into this other area. And I had kind of the plan of what I thought I might do in English,
and psychology was a real change for me. So, the more I got into it, the more I kind of
felt like I was in the right place. But I also was always looking for that affirmation of that,
that this is the right place, and that also that I could. . . I had reservations whether or not I
could handle a psychology program, especially coming from an English program, which
was not very heavily science based. And so for me, it was affirming to myself that I could
do this. When I would come into [Ml] and we would have one of those interactions, it
was affirming that I could do it, and it would help me to affirm that if I was excited about
it, and having fun doing it that I was in the right place. And I think also, seeing that [Ml]
was also excited about it, made me think that, maybe this is something that will never go
away. Maybe the excited about it when I've been doing it for 20 years you know or
whatever, like he has.
MARK: So he was a good model for that?
SP3: Yeah. I think that's one thing we definitely have in common. I mean, the one thing
we both really like it is when you get the raw data and you can mine it, find out that thing
that nobody else knows. Whatever a weird thing that is, it just has a certain appeal to it
that both of us share.
MARK: Do you feel that you like the idea of showing Ml that you did it, you wanted
him to be proud?
SP3: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I definitely have that kind of "second father figure"
feeling about it. And it is equally devastating when he'd look at a first draft, and say,
"No, this is really bad, this is really not it," and it was equally as devastating. So, it was. .
. but I think I definitely have that same kind of sense, if he was saying good job, and I
was feeling I was good, and I was happy with the approval. And if he was saying," no
way," that was a bad couple of days." You know, "oh, man," and then pick it back up and
do it over again.
MARK: When he said, and possibly still does, when he says "No, this is not quite right,"
how does he do that?
SP3: Hummm. Actually, he says "No, that's not it." That's actually pretty close to it.
[Ml] likes to see pretty much all of our documents; so, our comprehensives — and our
orals is actually writing a review paper and handing that in — and the dissertation of
course. And so we've done drafts of all of those pieces of work that he saw before we
actually handed them in. And he goes through them, and marks them up, and he says,
"No this isn't it yet." And sometimes it's "This section is pretty good and close, but this
section. . . you've just got to rewrite the whole section.
MARK: How come that doesn't blow your ego?
SP3: Well, it depends on how bad the paper was, as to whether or not it did blow my ego
out of the water (laughing).
MARK: Well, you're still here, I mean you still like him, he's still your mentor. How is it
he can tell you that you not doing it right and it's okay?
SP3: 1 think, umm. . . it's hard for me to think about that as being something that [Ml]
did, or something that I actually thrived under. I had, I actually have a couple days of not
wanting to work on it, and its blah; but then I usually kind of have a fighter attitude about
that. If he said that that section was really bad, you really need to rewrite that, I kind of
have this, "I can show him" kind of attitude that comes out, where I will find a lot of
effort to put into like, that one section to try to. . . .
MARK: Show him, not in a negative sense, but show him I can do this, that I'm good
enough to. . . the "good father" thing again.
SP3: Yeah. It is kind of that again. And I do think it's always been seeking that kind of
approval at some level. But also to show him that I can do it, that affirmation for me. One
of the things I've always struggled with is the changeover from writing as an English
major, to writing in this technical manner. Which if you use an adjective. . . that's the first
thing to go, in English, you're just going off, you know the creative writing, that was
always my strong suit. And then to hit this was really tough for me, and it still is really
tough for me to produce a document that stays within the bounds, and really doesn't
sound like an English paper, as [Ml] would say. And that was definitely a part of the
learning process. But I also think the criticism didn't get to me about I think being
tough, you have a certain level of tough skin. Yeah, it's a bummer when don't get it right,
but you have to figure out a way to get over that, then try again. When it's the third time,
and it's still not right, that's when he gets to be hard. And I have to admit actually I didn't
ever really find myself there very often; it was usually the third time, we were basically
done at that point— and a couple times the third time was still not there. And I think that
that also, just talking with other people, the fact that [Ml] would be willing to pass back
and forth the draft three times, was something that, as I've talked with other people, they
didn't have that. And that goes back to the first thing, about being there and being willing
to give up that time for you. I think the tough skin. . . it didn't feel good, but it wasn't
totally devastating. But I don't know if there was anything about what [Ml] did as
compared to whether or not it was just that you had to
MARK: And again, the idea that you could have an adviser — perhaps not you, but
somebody else turns in a paper, and they say, No, this isn't good." And then you have
[Ml] that turns back and says, "No, this is no good." On the one hand, it's okay. You get
motivated and want to show him you can do it. Then the other person, for whatever
reason, hasn't got that relationship, and it's like, "Well, F you," or, "Oh, my god, I'm a
failure." I mean, [Ml] won the award, what is [Ml] doing that's different? That's why it's
hard to do this research, it's hard to find what it is that they're doing. ... So many people
seem to know this guy's a good mentor, whereas the other guy's not.
SP3: 1 think, and it goes back to that kind of level of excitement, at least for me it was
about that [Ml] always. . . I always knew I had good stuff. I had a good story to tell. But
what I knew also was that I wasn't always the best at telling it, according to this kind of
critical, this empirical way of writing things out. What I always felt was, I always felt
motivated because [Ml] always was very reinforcing; "You've got a good thing here to
talk about." And the other thing was that was reinforced also by when we would go to
conferences, people were really interested in what I was doing. And again, the whole
time [Ml] would be there. And the fact that others are interested in what I was doing, and
I could talk with them and have good conversation about things, and the fact that [Ml]
was excited to be there for those conversations as well. And again, that was also the circle
of approval other peers that are out there, as well as the approval of [Ml] seeing that what
I was doing actually was. . . for him it was probably what he already knew, but for me, it
was like, "Yeah, you're right, this is important stuff. This is good stuff."
MARK: So he always invested energy and interest in what you were up to. . . .
SP3: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think the other thing that [Ml]. . . at least for me for sure, we
always had a good. . . we always had kind of a separate relationship, as far as. . . there
was the relationship where we were working on something, and then there was a separate
relationship which was much more familiar and friend-like in a way that [Ml] always
treated me more like a peer than like a student. So, it was always much more in that kind
of sense, as far as, I worked in a lab for 5 years for him. And so there were kind of two
levels there, as far as running and working in his lab, and it was much more about peer-
type interaction, and a friend-type interaction. I think we had a pretty good relationship in
that sense. We both knew that we could, when he had to be able to say to me, "This paper
is not it, and you've got to go back and do more serious work on it," and that would be a
little upsetting to me, and kind of bum me out a bit for couple of days. It didn't have
anything to do with, it wasn't ever like, "F you," about it or whenever. I knew he was
giving his honest opinion about what I had done, and it wasn't ever that I thought he was
ever being mean about it or anything. It was a strictly that. . . I fully believed when he
said I had to go back and do more work on this, that I really needed to go back and do
more work on this. However much I didn't want to, or really just wanted to try to "hand it
in and see if it passes, because I'm tired of writing on this thing," you know that kind of
feeling? I think that [Ml] and I, we had a period where I was the only one in the lab. We
had a funding period, and then a year off, and then a funding period, and I came in on a
year off, and we hired other staff around there. And during that time it was just him and I,
and I think that's where we developed a pretty good relationship, and this kind of this
dichotomy between, more of a personal level, and then the work level. I mean, it never
felt like we didn't smoothly move between those, even when we were having it out. And
the farther I got along, the more willing I was to argue about why I thought what I was
doing was okay to hand in, and to really talk that through. And you know, were both a
little stubborn, but again we can have a pretty heated talk about a paper, and try to discuss
why I didn't think that. I don't ever think that it was. . . again, it was still separate in some
kind of strange way. And that I knew then if later on in the lab. . . we used to actually go
for drinks on Friday a lot of the time, afterwards, and so if that happened on Thursday or
even Friday, by the time Friday at 4:00 came, if we were going to go out, and just sit, it
was completely different. And I guess the other thing was, I never thought that [Ml] was
being mean, I always thought that he was giving me, as he saw it. . . I didn't always see
his, always agree; but in the same token, I always felt that what he said was probably
best, and made the most. . . and made sense. It wasn't that it didn't make sense, ever, it
wasn't ever that he suggested something that I really thought, "that doesn't. . . ," and I
have to admit, there's been other people, what their advisers told them, and thought,
"that doesn't sound right." With [Ml], I always thought that he was giving good advice.
And that might be another piece of being a good mentor — he was always providing me
with good information.
MARK: How does it feel to have a mentor that you believe in that way, giving you good
advice? What does that get you?
SP3: 1 think it gets you to a certain level that you can relax about that, that you don't have
to worry about whether or not you have to kind of double check the information. What I
came to was, what I found was. . . actually, [Ml] was in the human development
department. He was the graduate curriculum adviser, so if you were a grad student, he
was kind of where the buck stopped, before you had to go up the hill. What I found was
that a lot of the time, friends of mine would get something from their adviser, and they
weren't real sure about it, so they would end up having to go to [Ml] to find out if. . . and
they would have to do it in some way where they really weren't getting their adviser in
trouble with the department, and to try and find out, "Is that really the way I'm supposed
to do this?" I always felt with [Ml] that I never worried about that. It was always, what
he, as far as logistics of things, I always knew he knew his stuff, and that that was not a
problem. Of course, with his position, he knew his stuff. And then it was to know, that
who he was, as far as a respected researcher in the field, who had been doing this for a
long time, and had been showing his peers that he could do this, and is still being active
in his research so he could be a part of that. When you weren't with somebody at the
beginning or the end. . . again, from seeing other people, it can wear on you; it can be a
different tale if you're with somebody who's just beginning and doesn't know how to
handle the students, who doesn't know that basic information. It was a piece that you
didn't have to worry about. And so, for me it was, like I said, it was just nice, to not have
to have something else to be thinking about, or to worry about whether or not I had to go
double check what my adviser was saying.
DISSATISFIED PROTEGE (DP) INTERVIEW SAMPLE
MARK: What does it feel like when you are with the mentor who provides positive
feedback, for instance for your writing, and virtually no positive reinforcement for your
other activities, like your family? What does that make you feel like?
DP l:Well it's ah. . . not very good for building a relationship with a mentor. I don't feel
like I've had a good relationship with my mentor outside of academics and professional
life, and whether that's important or not I don't know. I think . . . I'm not sure how it
made me feel — it was kind of an empty feeling. It made for a sterile relationship. I guess
maybe that's one way to put it. But I can't really pinpoint exactly how it would make me
feel when he would do that. Part of it was because I really wanted to get through the
program, so I kind of started to see him as just "that person," the person who got me
through the program, and that was his goal. I guess it wasn't really necessarily a bad
feeling or anything, it was just that I don't think we had that kind of relationship that I've
seen some people have with their mentors.
MARK: You said that you started to feel that way; you started to put him in that role.
But at the beginning what were your expectations?
DP 1: Well, from seeing other graduate students, and with some of the relationships that I
had with some of my professor in undergrad, actually, I kind of expected more of a
combination of the professional and personal relationships. I didn't necessarily get that.
I mean, I still got my degree in a reasonable amount of time, but since I've graduated we
don't talk that much. We don't even e-mail much at all. . .
MARK: Did you ever feel like a colleague?
DP 1: That's a good question. Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn't, (long pause).
Yeah, when I was doing things that were not only getting me through the program, but
were also going to help him out with his, in his professional life, I did. I felt like a
colleague. And I don't know if that was because we tended to work more together and it
was that kind of relationship.
MARK: Were you getting better feedback when you were serving his needs as well?
DP 1: Oh, yeah. Oh, yaeh, definitely!
MARK: So if you were doing your own project and he wasn't interested in it. . .
DP 1: Yeah, and I don't know if it was because I realized that at the beginning, and so I
didn't really seek his feedback on things that weren't really involved with him. Because I
didn't. If I was working on a paper that didn't have to do with his area, then a lot of
times I wouldn't even show it to him, I would just go to someone else.
MARK: I am curious. . . you obviously have some individual in mind when you use the
word mentor. Why do you use the word mentor about that individual?
DP 1: Well, I think he did. I think he did; I think he mentored me in a specific area, and
there was defiantly, I think, some mentoring going on there. And I learned a lot from
him; And plus, that was his job, and so you know that's part of it too. He was my main
advisor, and stayed that way through out my entire graduate school. Yeah, he did some
mentoring, but then it was also the fact that was the label that he had.
MARK: Would you have given it to him if that weren't the label?
DP 1 : Yeah, I would say he was a mentor.
MARK: So, what kind of things did he teach you?
DP 1 : He taught me how to write, he definitely taught me how to write a whole lot better.
He taught me how to do research; a particular type of research, (long pause) There's a
lot of things with in those two areas, but those are the two big things — the writing, I can
defiantly give him big kudos for that. Because he did do a good job on that.
MARK: What kinds of things didn't he do that you would have liked to see?
DP 1: The biggest thing that he didn't do, I felt. . . I don't think he was a good model for
what an academic researcher should be. I don't know if it's an individual thing, or if it's
because of the way the system is set up. . .he's got tenure, he teaches a huge
undergraduate class, and that's his job in the department. There's really no contingency
on him to go out and get funding to do new research and to write more and to do things.
So, I didn't see a person who was an active researcher, an active writer. You know, when
I was there, the major studies that he did were the things that I was doing. He might have
done one other one, but that was pretty much it. Again, I don't know if that was because
of him or if it was the system setup, so once you get tenured you pretty much have to kill
someone to get fired. . . .
MARK: Do you think he really wasn't carrying his load. . . taking advantage of it. . . ?
DP 1: Yeah. Yeah, I would say so. Yeah. Especially when I first got here. When I first
got here it was much worse than it is now. For some reason. . . I don't know if some one
lit a fire under him or what, but the past few years he's been a little more proactive in
getting his own research going. I am in a post-doctoral program now and the mentor that
I have there is pretty much the opposite. He is always writing grants, always doing new
research — so really completely different professionally in that way. So, I think I didn't
see through my graduate carrier what I think would be a good model of what an academic
researcher should be.
MARK: Did he promote you in the field? Did he introduce you to other people? Did he
take you to conferences?
DP 1: No. No. I would sign myself up for conferences. No, Yeah, No he did not do that. I
think again it was because he was not really active in the field, and he didn't really have
much of an opportunity to promote me, to give me connections to other people. And so I
would go with other of his colleagues and get that. Yeah, he didn't do any of that.
MARK: If you took away the writing and the research, what did he do for you?
DP 1 :(pause) Well, he taught me how to get through the program. You have to do
specific things, obviously, in every graduate program, and a lot of people. . . it's a very
self-motivating thing. You have to. . . there are certain dates that you have to do certain
things, and it's somewhat unstructured. So, a lot of people have trouble with that, and I
think he was really good and ah. . . and you know, showing me first of all, pointing that
out to me and helping me get through that and doing the things I needed to do to get
through the program. So, yeah, and you know, I said that, he helped me get through the
MARK: What did he do for you personally? Like as a person?
DP 1: Uh (pause) Nothing. Yeah, there was no personal. . . I mean we would tell jokes
and stuff. But he and I, I think were different people too. Yeah, we're different people. I
mean. . . you know, we went out a couple of times and we had a couple of drinks or
something, you know. He's just a different person. He's been married a few times,
(laughs) So, you know. . . and maybe that's part of the family thing. . . having bad
experiences with that. No, there really wasn't anything personal.
MARK: What do you think about that? That he didn't do anything for you personally?
DP 1: Again, you know, I didn't come here to get a personal relationship with a facility
member at KU, that wasn't one of my goals. It would be nice, and like I said, I've seen it
in other graduate students, having personal relationships with other facility. So I got it in
other places, so I ... .it would have been nice, but the fact that I didn't get it. . . (long
pause) ... it wasn't devastating. I don't necessarily. . . I don't find that to be as big as a
problem as the fact that I don't think that he was a good model for what I think a
professor should be doing.
MARK: You said that if you had a paper that wasn't really in his area you never even
took it to him. Why is that? Where do you learn that that was a wasted effort?
DP 1: Because he would question why I was even writing this, and why I was spending
my time doing that. Rather than go through all that business
MARK: So the first time you did that, I don't know if you can remember the first time
you did that, you go to him wit the paper, and you have some level of excitement because
you have this paper and you want so feedback from your mentor. You take in a paper
and he says, "Why are you wasting your time on this?" How does that make you feel?
DP 1: Yeah, that hurts. That would hurt. Yeah, because. . . that's . . . you know. . . he
obviously had a reason for doing that, and he would question it and you know. . . I would
have a good dialogue about this, but it turned out just. . . I learned eventually that it
really was just. . . because it wasn't really his area, and you know he would say that
because "this isn't going to help you get through the program" and you know "thjis isn't
going to get you to your goal. But, you know, I obviously have other goals other than
getting through the program; I wanted to develop professionally. So yeah, that hurt.
Because it would be nice to have someone who could be involved in all of that. If it was
me, I think I probably would have. . . I probably would have just told. . . if I had a
student, I would have just said, "Maybe you ought to go talk to so and so because this is
his area. You know this is just great but I'm not familiar with it. So you might want to
take it to somebody else". But rather than doing that he would just insinuate that it was
kind of a waste of my time and I should be working on other things.
MARK: Did that impact your image of yourself as a competent researcher? Make you
wonder if you picked the right program?
DP 1: (pause) I know it didn't in the later parts; I am trying to think in the early parts,
when he first was doing that. ... I think I probably did initially. Yeah, yeah, I did
initially and then ... but then when I would figure out, "Well let me try with someone
else." You know give the paper to someone else or discuss the research with someone
else. Then eventually I just realized, it was just his own little personal hang-up and I just
changed my behavior, and well this paper will not go to [mentor], it will go to somebody
MARK: So this guy was your chair, I'm assuming, your dissertation chair?
DPI: Yeah, yeah..
MARK: And probably your master chair. Was there somebody else in particular that
you went to most of the time for those kinds of emotional things?
DPI: To talk about that?
MARK: Not necessarily to talk about him. . . I mean. . . you're married?
DP 1: Right.
MARK: So your probably getting a lot of emotional support at home. I'm making an
DP 1: Yeah, you're right.
MARK: Was there somebody else in the department or somebody else around that you
would go to get some professional emotional support.
DP 1 :The students. Yeah, yeah. . . not necessarily other facility; I wasn't comfortable
talking about that with other facility. I know some people do, and. . . no, I never did it
with other facility. But other students, yeah. . . yeah definitely, I'd talk to them about
MARK: About him?
DPI: About. ..Yeah.
MARK: What about feelings of confidence? What about the idea that somebody on the
inside thinks that you're OK?
DP 1: About confidence. . . ?
MARK: There's a lot of things that can go on in a relationship, and in the standard
conceptual relation in a mentor relationship. . . you get not just the professional but the
personal, emotional support that you've been alluding to. I'm just wondering if there was
somebody else in the program that was giving you that support?
DPl:Uh, ah, no
MARK: Because your peers of course can give you some support but they can't give you
that kind of. . .
DP 1: Yeah. . . Yeah. . . Yeah. . . there was a couple of facility. . . again, I wouldn't go to
them and say, "He's doing this." It would just, yeah. . . well, yeah, it was the whole, "I'm
not going to get the feedback or encouragement from you, so I'll go to one of these other
people." And yeah. . . I'd defiantly do that.
MARK: Can I ask how old you are?
DP 1:1 am 32.
MARK: So you're a little non traditional.
MARK: And you have a pretty stable home environment. Because one of the things I
am seeing in you is that you have a lot of emotional resilience to start with, like you came
in. . . probably more mature than your average 22-year-old master's student. I'm
wondering, what you think would happen if some neophyte young person came in and
met this guy?
DP 1: Well, I've seen a lot of them and I think I'm the only one who's made it out
through him. No, I'm the second person who has made it out through him, with a PHD.
He's got a person who will be finished with their masters in a couple of weeks, who had
some real problems. Yeah, I've seen a lot of students come and go within my ten year
commitment. . . yeah, they just couldn't handle it. Yeah, it's always an individual thing. It
may be the lack of a personal relationship; they've all been female except for one male.
MARK: Now is your program a PHD program or Master's or a terminal Master's.
DP 1: There is a terminal master's, and this one person is the only one that I have seen
come through him, yeah, who ended on their master's.
MARK: Do you think that was their intent?
DP 1: No, that wasn't their intent.
MARK: Do you think that their decision was related to him? I don't how well you know
DP 1 :1 know her very well. To some degree, yeah. I'm not real sure that she would have
gone on with somebody else. It's hard to tell, because there are other things, too; that
was defiantly a factor in there. Whether or not taking that factor out she would have gone
on, I can't say for sure.
MARK: Because you obviously were able to find the resources, and have the emotional
foundation that you didn't need. . .
DP 1: 1 think that finding other people. . . and a lot of those people. . . what happened is. .
. I say a lot. . . one of the people who didn't make it actually went to another mentor and
she did end up finishing. So, she just completely pulled herself away from him and went
with someone else and did finish. The other people just didn't. . . didn't find anybody
else. I don't know if the personal part of it made a difference there or not.
MARK: So, what does it mean to somebody, or to you, when somebody in that position
of mentor or as a facility member gives you positive feedback on something that you're
doing. What does that give you at a real fundamental level?
DP 1: 1 think it helps build that collegial relationship. . . I feel more of a colleague when
I'm writing with a mentor, or some other facility and I get positive feedback. I mean,
obviously it makes me feel good. It gives me a very good feeling about my competency
as a writer and a researcher. I think it is very important, and I think some people are
much better at it than others. You know its interesting, as far as the writing, I think my
mentor. . . and I'm not so sure that this was a bad way to do it, but, when I think about it,
how he went about giving me feedback on my writing; in the beginning he was giving me
a lot of positive feedback and really trying to shape my writing, and giving me corrective
feedback too. But as it went on it was just less and less. Just less feedback period. And I
always wondered if my writing had gotten better or. . . because he wasn't giving the
positive feedback either. So I don't know if he just felt like I didn't need it anymore, or if
it was . . .
MARK: Did you ever ask him?
DP l:No (chuckles)
MARK: Why not?
DP 1: That's a good question. I think it was probably because of that relationship. I felt
like that might be kind of going over that boundary that may have led to a lot of people
not making it through with him. I think he is a very insecure person, and so when you
call him on things he has a tendency to sometimes be really OK with it, and sometimes
really have a very adverse reaction. I just thought. . . well, you know, things are going
OK (laughing) there's no reason to rock the boat. So I just went on, and I never asked
him about that
MARK: Would it have been unsafe?
DP 1: No. . . you mean. . . like. . .
DP 1: Emotionally ... for me or for him?
MARK: For you.
DP 1 : Yeah, it could have been. . . . (long pause) Yeah, it could have been, because. . .
again I've seen other people go down that path with him ,and it always turned out bad. . .
for the person. And since he has tenure and you can complain to the department chair all
you want. . . and threaten legal issues and everything. . . he's got tenure. . . .
MARK: Did anybody ever do that, that you know of?
DP l:You mean bring up. . .
MARK: Go to the dean? Go to the chair? Threaten issues?
DPI: Oh, absolutely.
MARK: About his treatment of them?
DPI: Yeah, yeah
MARK: So are you just being incredibly polite about this guy?
DP l:You know, I have asked myself that a lot and people have asked me that because
you know. . . the people that I know who had him in their life said, "Man, how did you
make it through with him?" And you know, that's one way to look at it. . . but I was just
really nice with him (chuckling). I think, again, I just really wanted to get through the
program, and I knew that if I did these things, I was going to get through it with him. . .
And one of the other things is that he's one of the only people in the department who has
similar interests with me. There are other people who have. . . who are interested in the
things that we do, but that's not their main area of research. So, I could go to those
people and talk to them, but as far as a main advisor, it pretty much had to be him. And
so, that could have contributed to that, because I think I did probably put up with things a
little bit more than other people did.
MARK: Cause you sound really relaxed now, and I'm wondering, are you kind of
indifferent? I mean, have you reached the point. . . did you reach the point where it's like
DP 1: Yeah. I think that's a good way to look at it. Yeah, I did. I can't pin point exactly
when that was. I think once I found myself getting through the program and doing things
and then little things would come up. . . you know, I would get the kind of feedback I was
telling you about; "What are you writing this for? Why are you doing this research?" And
I just decided I just didn't need to step over that boundary, so I didn't. So, I'd just go to
someone else and find another avenue. By the end an indifference was probably a good
way to put it because I really. . . the last couple of years I probably wasn't learning a
whole lot from him. Once he taught me the writing which he did an excellent job of. . .
(garbled) how to conduct his type of research, it was pretty much just, "We do this, we do
that, we do this, then I'm done."
EXAMPLE OF OPEN CODING
Mark: So I guess the opening question is typically, how do
you define a good mentoring relationship?
SP2: Well, I guess it's different for different fields. You
know science, where you're doing research, there's a lot of
information that you have to develop with experimental
designs and stuff like that. And I think that part of a good
mentoring relationship is kind of a back and forth with some
Interactive relationship about
of that information. The ability to ask questions, and get
answers of course, and also kind of a little bit of freedom in
Ask and actually get answers.
developing your own hypothesis as a student, and
Freedom w/guidance, support.
developing the experimental design to go on with that,
Practice, growth, developing
because that is really what's going to help you in the job
world. But also, I think, and this is just me, you kind of
need to have a relationship that's not strictly science based;
you know, a little bit of a personal interaction. Knowing
what's going on with each other, and be able to talk a little
Time. Affirmation of value.
bit besides what's going on in the lab and what experiments
Able to talk beyond advising.
Research is not person.
are being done and things like that.
Mark: So lets imagine you're sitting with somebody and
you're talking. You're the protege and they're the mentor.
You have a need for some information. This is what you're
looking at; this is what you don't under stand. "Tell me
what I need to know?" And they tell you what you need to
know. Of course, you can get straight information from
them, you can get an answer.
SP2: Yeah, that's not strictly what I'm talking about
though. Really, kind of more a pointing in the right
direction. If there's just some small item, or some tiny little
thing that you don't understand, then you can come to short
answers; that's the best way to go and not waste a whole
bunch of time digging through all the literature, looking for
some tiny aspect. But if it's a general concept, you really do
need to develop that yourself. And maybe take that to your
mentor, as "This is what I understand, tell me if you think
its right, or if you think maybe I'm missing something."
Mark: So you don't want to be told the answer typically.
SP2: No, no absolutely not. I don't want to be told the
answer. I don't want to be told what to do. I want to have
some freedom and ability to develop my own
Guidance, not directive.
Point, not carry.
M not obsessed w/irrelevant
detail. M not cover
Learn diff. b/n learning and
Learn to learn important stuff.
Safe place to be wrong.
Trust, respect M's knowledge,
Wants M to know P can do it?
Desire to learn, not just pass.
Wants freedom and guidance.
Mark: Why is that?
SP2: Because that's what you have to do in the real world.
And that's probably what interests me. . . is the ability to
develop, and you know, stick through, and all of a sudden
that moment when it becomes clear is a lot of fun, and it's
very interesting. I don't want someone just drawing me a
picture and telling me, "This is what happens, just memorize
Mark: So, what I'm trying to find out is why that works for
you? Why does it work for you, not to be told the answer?
What is it that you're getting? So you're saying its more
exciting to get the answer yourself?
SP2: Yeah, it's more exciting. And its more applicable,
because if I go out and get a job, then I'm not going to have
someone I can go to. . . I shouldn't have someone there I
can go to. . . at the PhD level, I shouldn't have someone I
can just go to and say, "what is the answer to this?" That's
part of what science is about, finding the answer. It's not
just finding answers that no on has found before, but
understanding and finding some of the answers in the
literature, and doing your own reading.
Mark: Do you think that all proteges think in the same way
Develop, grow, learn on own.
Preparation, relevant to goals.
Likes learning, winning
against own ignorance.
Growth. Discovery is reward.
Respect her abilities.
Teach her, don't tell her.
Discovery, overcoming is
rewarding. It also prepares for
goals. Relevant growth.
Wants to become a real PhD.
Wants to participate in real
science — not about fame, but
overcoming, work. To be a
scientist. To Belong.
SP2: Well, I don't know about all, I would hope so.
Mark: In your experience?
These things SHOULD be
SP2: In my experience, yes. I would hope so. It's
important to have a little bit of free thought. Free thought,
Free to explore ideas. Safe.
and different ideas, and different experiences, kind of what
helps make the field progress. If everybody's thinking the
same thing, or if you're not going to have any more ideas
Going beyond what's gone
before. Master, then
then what your mentor has, then you're not really pushing
the envelope at all, you're just kind of following along.
Mark: So how does [your mentor] do that?
Ability, desire to surpass M.
SP2: Well, my experience with her has been that, I knew a
Respect; want it, give it.
lot about the Alzheimer's disease field coming in. I didn't
Confidence in own abilities.
know quite as much about the neurochemistry, and
anatomy, but I got that in classes and things. She really has
Don't need to have
let me come up with my own experiments to do. In the
beginning of course I was just learning techniques and
Don't need M for basic
basically doing experiments that were assigned, and then
knowledge. Freedom equals
respect. First learn basics,
after a while, after I got a little bit more involved, she really
then get autonomy and
let me kind of take things in my own direction. From doing
my own reading in the literature, and what I understood
Stages; skills development.
about Alzheimer's disease and other things, I've been able
Respect of her ability. Show
to develop my own set of experiments and my own
M ability. M reciprocates
hypotheses, and kind of my own little project, which has
w/freedom. Use the freedom.
been very helpful, cause it also allows me to do the kind of
Safe to explore own ideas.
thinking to understand, that "Okay, I need to have some
controls for this aspect of it," or "Does this experiment
Growth in skills, confidence.
really answer the question that I want to answer?" And
Autonomy, can do the do.
that's what you have to do in the real world, and that's one
Internalized research values.
of the most interesting aspects of doing scientific research.
Progress towards goals.
Mark: You alluded to how it was different at the
SP2: Well, when I first came into the lab, I had no
experience doing any kind of techniques, and that's kind of
what I was learning when I first came in. She would say,
"Okay, this experiment, we need to have this project run,
appropriate. M assessed
and because you need to learn how to do this experiment, do
skills, needs. Use the word
this technique basically, why don't you do this?" Even
"we"-collective, not ego.
then, it wasn't, like, you know, very strict, as far as, exactly,
Not command language
you know. . . I still had to understand enough about it to say,
Guidance with freedom.
Positive expectations, rope.
"Well I need to control for this, and I need to test for this
and this." But it was. . . basically, when I first got into the
lab for the first couple of months, I was just trying to learn
Start at the bottom. Work
the techniques, and so I was working with some of the other
people in the lab on some of their own stuff, but, you know,
Peer mentors, trainers.
you can't just jump in there and know how to do everything.
Mark: Did you make any mistakes?
SP2: Of course.
Mark: And how was that?
SP2: Oh it was fine, I mean, she understands that you. . .of
Completely not threatened
course this is a training period, even now. I've made
mistakes, or not controlled the data for something, and when
M understands, vs. tolerates,
I present the data to her she mentions that, so the next time I
do the experiment I realize that I need to do that. But it's
not that. . . she doesn't go rooting for it. She's really
Mentions, points out - not
relaxed about it, and about a lot of things.
Mark: What did that, what does that get for you? When
Doesn't look for things to
attack, ways to lord over
you're in a situation, and you make a mistake and she's
okay with it, she doesn't . . .
SP2: Well, I mean, of course it makes me more willing to
Safe base. Self-comfort. No
admit that I made a mistake. And also, it's not so much
need to evade or avoid M.
pressure. I know some mentors who are a lot more ridged
Lower stress, focus on work.
about that, and they do expect you to know, every time,
Fear of M, afraid to tell M
exactly everything that needs to be done. And you know,
when make mistake. Afraid to
you're going to have people in the lab who are going to be
try anything for fear of error
scared when you do that. And I think it makes it easier for
me to just go ahead and do something, than to worry about
Can focus on work rather than
if everything is exactly right. I do make an effort to include
possible judgment - safe,
everything I understand, based on my own knowledge, to do
secure. Desire to do well is
internally driven, not a desire
everything correctly. But if it's not correct, I don't feel like
to avoid external aversiveness.
I have to fear anything.
Mark: You feel comfortable coming up with, doing more
risky type things, a more far out hypothesis?
SP2: Oh absolutely. I don't know if you know how we do
our oral examinations. . . ?
Mark: She told me, yes.
SP2: We do a lot of proposals, so I just wrote my grant
proposal, and it's kind of out there. They're going to let me
Can take risks, safe. Can
do it. Its not so far out there, I guess, that it's unreasonable.
Safe to be different, push the
envelope. M supports in
committee? - note use of
The foregoing is a rough example of the first iteration of an open coding process. The
actual process was carried out with pencil on an original transcript. The second iteration
was carried out when concepts were further reduced and transferred to note cards.
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Mark Brechtel was born in 1957 in Calgary, Canada. His father was a senior
executive in the oil industry and later an independent consultant. His mother, who began
as a schoolteacher, has been an exemplary mother, wife, and homemaker. He is the
youngest of four siblings, having two brothers and one sister.
Mark finished grade 9 before becoming disenchanted with school and decided to
pursue other interests as a teenager. He obtained employment in the budding electronics
industry, worked as an electronics and computer technician, and later as a manager in a
computer company for approximately 15 years. For 8 years, he and his second wife,
Brenda, were therapeutic/medical foster parents, helping to raise 30 children, including
two daughters from his previous marriage and one daughter from her previous marriage.
In 1993, Mark again became disenchanted and returned to school. He received a
national award for the highest scores on the GED and entered the University of Colorado.
With a GPA of 4.0, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, with a minor in
philosophy. He was subsequently awarded the J. Hillis Miller Presidential Fellowship and
later a McLaughlin Dissertation Fellowship by the University of Florida. He is presently
completing an APA accredited doctoral internship at the University of Kansas
Counseling Center and has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of
Georgia Counseling Center.
Mark does not yet know what he wants to be when he grows up, nor has he any
immediate plans to do so.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree Doctor of Philosophy.
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree Doctor of Philosophy^
Gregory J. Neimeyer
Professor of Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree Doctor of Philosophy.
"David 1. Suchmarf
Professor of Psychology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to
acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree Doctor of Philosophy.
ommunication Sciences and
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of
Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and
was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of
Dean, Graduate School
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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